Some “Tonyisms” compiled by Zeke Abraham at Date With Destiny last week.
“I challenge you to make your life a masterpiece. I challenge you to join the ranks of those people who live what they teach, who walk their talk.”
– Tony Robbins
Complexity is the enemy of execution.
You can only build on success, you can’t build on failure.
Our culture reinforces blame of others.
Words have a biochemical effect on the body
Stress is a code word for FEAR.
Stress doesn’t come from the facts, stress comes from the meaning we give the facts. When you come up with a new meaning, you get a new life.
Three decisions that we all make, control each moment of our lives:
What to focus on
What things mean
What to do in spite of the challenges that may appear.
We are suffering so much because we are overlooking the gifts around us.
Trade expectation for appreciation and our whole life changes in an instant. ~Because~
You can’t feel grateful and fearful at the same time. Or
You can’t feel grateful and angry at the same time.
When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears
Celebration releases stress, it lifts your mood, motivates you, and lastly, it gives you energy. Not only physically, but it gives you energy for life
When you adopt an attitude of gratitude celebrating for no good reason, is a good enough reason.
The Past does not equal the Future. Biography does not equal Destiny.
Our culture wants you to be one thing — to keep you simple.
6 human needs , each can be met constructively or destructively:
2. Uncertainty / Variety
4. Love / Connection
People will give up their goals, dreams and values to meet their needs
Anytime your mind perceives that doing something, feeling something, or believing something meets three of your needs; it becomes an addiction.
A Strategy is a system of producing a consistent result.
Faith is freedom.
A belief is a feeling of certainty about what something means.
There is a way beyond the way you’ve been programmed and that’s to program YOURSELF.
People who succeed long term live on pull not push.
If you don’t like the answers, ask better questions.
Life is happening FOR me not TO me.
Proximity is power.
Who you spend time with is who you become.
People’s lives are a direct reflection of the expectations of their peer group.
Only 3 things hold you back in business:
1. Failure to anticipate
2. Lack of follow through
3. Our own psychology and mindset
Leaders are READERS: Minimum 30 minutes a day. (A book! NOT a fluff piece, social media or magazine or infographic.)
Necessity is the mother of invention
It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.
In life, lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know.
Knowing is not enough! You must take action.
Knowledge is not power…it’s potential power. Execution will trump knowledge any day.
Information is potential power—execution trumps information every time.
Emotion is created by motion
CHANGE YOUR STATE! (PHYSIOLOGY)
Where focus goes, energy flows (THOUGHT = ENERGY)
I am a force for good!
DEFY THE ODDS!
Make your move!
If you want to change your life, raise your standards, change your SHOULD’s into MUST’s
If you want to take the island, you gotta burn the freakin boats
We all get what we tolerate.
The secret to LIVING is GIVING
Losers react, winners anticipate
If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten
The path of least resistance will never make you proud.
Progress = happiness
If we don’t grow we die
People are rewarded in public for what they do in private
Most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in a decade
Life’s reward system is not fair. We don’t get rewards that are equal to efforts.
Good Effort = ZERO REWARDS
Great Effort = Good Rewards
Excellent Effort =Great Rewards
+ ADD ONLY 2mm more effort
Outstanding Effort = EXCELLENT Rewards
If you treat people at the end of the relationship like you did at the beginning, there won’t be an end.
What stops us all from moving forward is FEAR: The two primary fears that we all share are:
1. the fear that we’re not enough, and therefore
2. the fear that we won’t be loved
The only thing that’s keeping you from getting what you want is the story you keep telling yourself.
Whenever you are happy with something in your life, it is because right now, the conditions of your life match your blueprint, or your belief about how life should be in that particular area. When you suffer, that is a signal for you to look at your blueprint. You have two options:
1. Either change your life, that is, do something to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
2. Or if you can’t change your life, change your blueprint.
The quality of your life is equal to the quality of your relationships.
Bottom line, If you’re not happy in your relationship, you aren’t happy (period)
Prime yourself daily – if you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life:
“The only thing that matters is what you choose to be now”
Po from Kung Fu Panda
The number 2 film on my “all time most watched” list is Kung Fu Panda 2. It was my daughter’s favourite during many of our travels together over the last decade. It is a film that had something for a young girl and something for her father.
We begin with Po, the Kung Fu Panda, frustrated with his life and feeling lost. Over the course of 90 minutes, Po learns to accept who he is and find inner peace.
Any guesses on the film I have watched most in my entire life? Check out this comment on the blog post for the answer!
“The people in the market for boring are spoiled for choice” Rich Mulholland
“All the good shit is reserved for those who put their hands up.” Rich Mulholland
All the good stuff is just beyond the rejection, the looking like a fool, the bad first impression, the being laughed at… if you censor yourself, you close off access to the good stuff.
Here’s Rich Mulholland’s Passion Direct via Video…
I am a fan of Rich Mulholland. He shares passion, some f**-bombs and some great personal stories as he tells you to take the risk that you know you need to take but are waiting for a better moment. The lesson: that moment will never come.
Let’s celebrate fall-forward risks, let’s celebrate epic fails and people who test the limits. A little bit of self-delusion and self-belief might just lead you to create your dream.
Status Anxiety is a much bigger issue today than at any time in history.
The self-help gurus have sold us on the idea that each of us individually has the power to succeed or fail within us. If I read “Awaken the Power within” I will find my power and inevitable achieve riches. If I read it, and I am not rich by Friday… I am a loser.
17th Century: Nobody Expected to Become An Aristocrat
Nobody in the time of Louis XIV thought that if they just worked a little smarter that they could be as rich as Louis. Today we see Bill Gates in jeans and a tshirt and it feels like if I had a garage and worked hard I too could become a billionaire.
It is probably as likely to become a billionaire as it was to accidentally switch places with Louis XIV… but we don’t feel it… and so we have enormous anxiety over the fact that we ourselves haven’t got a billion in the bank.
Driven By Status, Not Money
Economists give a vision of us that we are rational actors almost entirely driven by money.
According to Alain de Botton, the truth of it is that we are far more hungry for status than we are for money. It tends to be that well paid jobs come with lots of status, and poorly paid jobs are very low status. If you were paid €100K for cleaning plates in McDonalds – the lack of status would still make the job tiring. Research says that only about 10% of the population who are not bothered in any way by their perceived status in society.
Career snobbery is a major feature of modern life: “What do you do?”, a positive answer… conversation; a non-status job… hmm, is that the time… I need to refill my drink.
A Ferrari is not just a fast car, it is an object that confers some degree of honour on the owner. People are a little nicer to you when you show up at a party in a Ferrari than when you arrive on a bicycle.
“Every time a friend of mine does well, a little piece of me dies” George Bernard Shaw
Psychologist Martin Seligman explained that there are three ways in which our internal beliefs or narratives become damaging: we make them personal, pervasive, and permanent.
Personal: I failed, so I must be a failure.
Pervasive: I failed in this instance, so I’ll probably fail in every instance.
Permanent: I failed once, so I’ll probably fail always.
When something goes wrong, watch how you speak to yourself. Be careful of the words “never” and “always”. A failure is a single instance of particular context and a particular version of your past self – taken positively, each failure makes you a better version of yourself.
It is not what happens that makes life hard, it is the perspective we chose to take on what is happening. We can chose which questions we ask ourself. If I ask myself “Why am I such a loser?”, my brain happily provides a long list of good answers. If I ask myself “What would I change next time?”, my brain engages in a more positive search for answers.
The only true failure is to let one setback stop you completely. You are not your current situation, you are the fullness of the journey that you will complete over your lifetime.
A mountaineer is not a failure when they are at base camp and only a success when at the summit.
A good gardener creates the conditions for growth of a garden, but cannot force the flowers to grow in an exact way. The good gardener creates the conditions and accepts what arises.
The bad gardener fights what arises. The bad gardener hacks and chops and fights against the natural growth of nature.
The good gardener changes the conditions and different plant shapes and varieties arise.
In each case the attitude of the gardener is “Interesting! I wouldn’t have expected that.” Creative indifference as a gardener is a deep curiosity, and an openness to delight in the million and one ways that nature can arise.
Good Teaching as Good Gardening
I want to teach more as a gardener than as a sculptor.
Up to now I often find that I am trying to remake a participant into my image of what she could be – I am metaphorically hacking off bits of stone and adding bits of paint.
A good gardener allows the plant to grow in its own unique way. Nature is difference. Nature is no straight lines, no leaf exactly like any other leaf, no flower exactly like any other flower.
I want to focus more on creating the conditions for growth in the classroom, during the breaks, during the lunches… that would allow the participants to grow in their own individual way – and have less fixed ideas about how each individual will use those conditions. I want to be willing to allow the person to become who he is to become, rather than my ideal of what he could be.
The question that really struck me and has left me deep in thought for the last 24 hours is this:
“What is the hardest thing that you ever had to work for?”
Ryan said that a friend asked him this question and the fact that he could not answer it made him change. He became World Champion of Public Speaking because of the question.
What is your answer? Is it clear?
Personally, I don’t have a clear answer.
I have been reflecting on school, university, MBA; on 8 years of work at Accenture; on 1 year travelling with a backpack around Asia and Latin America; on 12 years building companies as a entrepreneur; on teaching; on 8 years of being a parent… and I am not sure I have a clear answer.
My reflection is that I want to have a clear answer on my 50th birthday. I want to know that there was something that I was willing to sacrifice for and that I chose to do the work consistently; in the good and in the tough times.
This weekend, I am on a 3 day course with Dr John DeMartini called “Master Planning for Life”. I aim to have an answer on Sunday night.
My Questions for You, Reader:
I would love your help. I learn so much from listening to other’s experiences. I would welcome comments or emails direct to me conor (at) conorneill.com with your experiences, reflections and perspectives:
What is the hardest thing you have had to work for?
When did you know that you were committed to achieving it?
How did you overcome the loss of passion, the doubts as you worked through the project?
What is something you are working on now that is big, hard and meaningful (but your choice! not your boss, company, family… you personally chose this project)
Sponsor (or Advocate) – puts their reputation on the line and takes responsibility for your personal success. Protege = “one who is protected”. Protege must do everything in his power to make the sponsor look good, or is wasting the sponsors time. “you provide a perspective that I otherwise would not have”; must be senior and influential, must be willing to make a stand
Experienced Guide – “so, what’s your next step?” helps you learn to trust your own decisions. I personally have learnt to trust my own decision making processes in people decisions (hiring, firing, recruiting) from my recent mentors.
Coach – focus on performance improvement, sets clear goals, asks good questions to widen your perspective; seniority not necessary if can establish good credible relationship
5 Powerful Mentor Questions
What is it that you really want to be and do?
What are you doing really well that is helping you get there?
What are you not doing well that is preventing you from getting there?
What will you do differently tomorrow to meet those challenges?
Where do you need the most help? (Who can help you?)
This post was originally published on Alternet and it is written by coaching guru Cloe Madanes.
The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People
Most of us claim we want to be happy—to have meaningful lives, enjoy ourselves, experience fulfillment, and share love and friendship with other people and maybe other species, like dogs, cats, birds, and whatnot. Strangely enough, however, some people act as if they just want to be miserable, and they succeed remarkably at inviting misery into their lives, even though they get little apparent benefit from it, since being miserable doesn’t help them find lovers and friends, get better jobs, make more money, or go on more interesting vacations. Why do they do this? After perusing the output of some of the finest brains in the therapy profession, I’ve come to the conclusion that misery is an art form, and the satisfaction people seem to find in it reflects the creative effort required to cultivate it. In other words, when your living conditions are stable, peaceful, and prosperous—no civil wars raging in your streets, no mass hunger, no epidemic disease, no vexation from poverty—making yourself miserable is a craft all its own, requiring imagination, vision, and ingenuity. It can even give life a distinctive meaning.
So if you aspire to make yourself miserable, what are the best, most proven techniques for doing it? Let’s exclude some obvious ways, like doing drugs, committing crimes, gambling, and beating up your spouse or neighbor. Subtler strategies, ones that won’t lead anyone to suspect that you’re acting deliberately, can be highly effective. But you need to pretend that you want to be happy, like everybody else, or people won’t take your misery seriously. The real art is to behave in ways that’ll bring on misery while allowing you to claim that you’re an innocent victim, ideally of the very people from whom you’re forcibly extracting compassion and pity.
Here, I cover most areas of life, such as family, work, friends, and romantic partners. These areas will overlap nicely, since you can’t ruin your life without ruining your marriage and maybe your relationships with your children and friends. It’s inevitable that as you make yourself miserable, you’ll be making those around you miserable also, at least until they leave you—which will give you another reason to feel miserable. So it’s important to keep in mind the benefits you’re accruing in your misery.
When you’re miserable, people feel sorry for you. Not only that, they often feel obscurely guilty, as if your misery might somehow be their fault. This is good! There’s power in making other people feel guilty. The people who love you and those who depend on you will walk on eggshells to make sure that they don’t say or do anything that will increase your misery.
When you’re miserable, since you have no hopes and expect nothing good to happen, you can’t be disappointed or disillusioned.
Being miserable can give the impression that you’re a wise and worldly person, especially if you’re miserable not just about your life, but about society in general. You can project an aura of someone burdened by a form of profound, tragic, existential knowledge that happy, shallow people can’t possibly appreciate.
Honing Your Misery Skills
Let’s get right to it and take a look at some effective strategies to become miserable. This list is by no means exhaustive, but engaging in four or five of these practices will help refine your talent.
1. Be afraid, be very afraid, of economic loss. In hard economic times, many people are afraid of losing their jobs or savings. The art of messing up your life consists of indulging these fears, even when there’s little risk that you’ll actually suffer such losses. Concentrate on this fear, make it a priority in your life, moan continuously that you could go broke any day now, and complain about how much everything costs, particularly if someone else is buying. Try to initiate quarrels about other people’s feckless, spendthrift ways, and suggest that the recession has resulted from irresponsible fiscal behavior like theirs.
Fearing economic loss has several advantages. First, it’ll keep you working forever at a job you hate. Second, it balances nicely with greed, an obsession with money, and a selfishness that even Ebenezer Scrooge would envy. Third, not only will you alienate your friends and family, but you’ll likely become even more anxious, depressed, and possibly even ill from your money worries. Good job!
Exercise: Sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and, for 15 minutes, meditate on all the things you could lose: your job, your house, your savings, and so forth. Then brood about living in a homeless shelter.
2. Practice sustained boredom. Cultivate the feeling that everything is predictable, that life holds no excitement, no possibility for adventure, that an inherently fascinating person like yourself has been deposited into a completely tedious and pointless life through no fault of your own. Complain a lot about how bored you are. Make it the main subject of conversation with everyone you know so they’ll get the distinct feeling that you think they’re boring. Consider provoking a crisis to relieve your boredom. Have an affair (this works best if you’re already married and even better if you have an affair with someone else who’s married); go on repeated shopping sprees for clothes, cars, fancy appliances, sporting equipment (take several credit cards, in case one maxes out); start pointless fights with your spouse, boss, children, friends, neighbors; have another child; quit your job, clean out your savings account, and move to a state you know nothing about.
A side benefit of being bored is that you inevitably become boring. Friends and relatives will avoid you. You won’t be invited anywhere; nobody will want to call you, much less actually see you. As this happens, you’ll feel lonely and even more bored and miserable.
Exercise: Force yourself to watch hours of mindless reality TV programs every day, and read only nonstimulating tabloids that leave you feeling soulless. Avoid literature, art, and keeping up with current affairs.
3. Give yourself a negative identity. Allow a perceived emotional problem to absorb all other aspects of your self-identification. If you feel depressed, become a Depressed Person; if you suffer from social anxiety or a phobia, assume the identity of a Phobic Person or a Person with Anxiety Disorder. Make your condition the focus of your life. Talk about it to everybody, and make sure to read up on the symptoms so you can speak about them knowledgeably and endlessly. Practice the behaviors most associated with that condition, particularly when it’ll interfere with regular activities and relationships. Focus on how depressed you are and become weepy, if that’s your identity of choice. Refuse to go places or try new things because they make you too anxious. Work yourself into panic attacks in places it’ll cause the most commotion. It’s important to show that you don’t enjoy these states or behaviors, but that there’s nothing you can do to prevent them.
Practice putting yourself in the physiological state that represents your negative identity. For example, if your negative identity is Depressed Person, hunch your shoulders, look at the floor, breathe shallowly. It’s important to condition your body to help you reach your negative peak as quickly as possible.
Exercise: Write down 10 situations that make you anxious, depressed, or distracted. Once a week, pick a single anxiety-provoking situation, and use it to work yourself into a panic for at least 15 minutes.
Cloe Madanes has teamed up with Tony Robbins to launch a coaching certification program. They have released a new series of eye-opening educational videos that will show you how to create profound changes in yourself and others – within a short conversation.
I encourage you to sign up for this training series (affiliate link) – you’re going to be inspired by what is possible. Tony has been an inspiration for me for over 20 years and I love how practical and direct he is in his trainings. His focus is on making a real difference in people’s lives.
4. Pick fights. This is an excellent way of ruining a relationship with a romantic partner. Once in a while, unpredictably, pick a fight or have a crying spell over something trivial and make unwarranted accusations. The interaction should last for at least 15 minutes and ideally occur in public. During the tantrum, expect your partner to be kind and sympathetic, but should he or she mention it later, insist that you never did such a thing and that he or she must have misunderstood what you were trying to say. Act injured and hurt that your partner somehow implied you weren’t behaving well.
Another way of doing this is to say unexpectedly, “We need to talk,” and then to barrage your partner with statements about how disappointed you are with the relationship. Make sure to begin this barrage just as your partner is about to leave for some engagement or activity, and refuse to end it for at least an hour. Another variation is to text or phone your partner at work to express your issues and disappointments. Do the same if your partner is out with friends.
Exercise: Write down 20 annoying text messages you could send to a romantic partner. Keep a grudge list going, and add to it daily.
5. Attribute bad intentions. Whenever you can, attribute the worst possible intentions to your partner, friends, and coworkers. Take any innocent remark and turn it into an insult or attempt to humiliate you. For example, if someone asks, “How did you like such and such movie?” you should immediately think, He’s trying to humiliate me by proving that I didn’t understand the movie, or He’s preparing to tell me that I have poor taste in movies. The idea is to always expect the worst from people. If someone is late to meet you for dinner, while you wait for them, remind yourself of all the other times the person was late, and tell yourself that he or she is doing this deliberately to slight you. Make sure that by the time the person arrives, you’re either seething or so despondent that the evening is ruined. If the person asks what’s wrong, don’t say a word: let him or her suffer.
Exercise: List the names of five relatives or friends. For each, write down something they did or said in the recent past that proves they’re as invested in adding to your misery as you are.
6. Whatever you do, do it only for personal gain. Sometimes you’ll be tempted to help someone, contribute to a charity, or participate in a community activity. Don’t do it, unless there’s something in it for you, like the opportunity to seem like a good person or to get to know somebody you can borrow money from some day. Never fall into the trap of doing something purely because you want to help people. Remember that your primary goal is to take care of Numero Uno, even though you hate yourself.
Exercise: Think of all the things you’ve done for others in the past that haven’t been reciprocated. Think about how everyone around you is trying to take from you. Now list three things you could do that would make you appear altruistic while bringing you personal, social, or professional gain.
7. Avoid gratitude. Research shows that people who express gratitude are happier than those who don’t, so never express gratitude. Counting your blessings is for idiots. What blessings? Life is suffering, and then you die. What’s there to be thankful for?
Well-meaning friends and relatives will try to sabotage your efforts to be thankless. For example, while you’re in the middle of complaining about the project you procrastinated on at work to your spouse during an unhealthy dinner, he or she might try to remind you of how grateful you should be to have a job or food at all. Such attempts to encourage gratitude and cheerfulness are common and easily deflected. Simply point out that the things you should be grateful for aren’t perfect—which frees you to find as much fault with them as you like.
Exercise: Make a list of all the things you could be grateful for. Next to each item, write down why you aren’t. Imagine the worst. When you think of the future, imagine the worst possible scenario. It’s important to be prepared for and preemptively miserable about any possible disaster or tragedy. Think of the possibilities: terrorist attacks, natural disasters, fatal disease, horrible accidents, massive crop failures, your child not getting picked for the varsity softball team.
8. Always be alert and in a state of anxiety. Optimism about the future leads only to disappointment. Therefore, you have to do your best to believe that your marriage will flounder, your children won’t love you, your business will fail, and nothing good will ever work out for you.
Exercise: Do some research on what natural or manmade disasters could occur in your area, such as earthquakes, floods, nuclear plant leaks, rabies outbreaks. Focus on these things for at least an hour a day.
9. Blame your parents. Blaming your parents for your defects, shortcomings, and failures is among the most important steps you can take. After all, your parents made you who you are today; you had nothing to do with it. If you happen to have any good qualities or successes, don’t give your parents credit. Those are flukes.
Extend the blame to other people from your past: the second-grade teacher who yelled at you in the cafeteria, the boy who bullied you when you were 9, the college professor who gave you a D on your paper, your first boyfriend, even the hick town you grew up in—the possibilities are limitless. Blame is essential in the art of being miserable.
Exercise: Call one of your parents and tell her or him that you just remembered something horrible they did when you were a child, and make sure he or she understands how terrible it made you feel and that you’re still suffering from it.
10. Don’t enjoy life’s pleasures. Taking pleasure in things like food, wine, music, and beauty is for flighty, shallow people. Tell yourself that. If you inadvertently find yourself enjoying some flavor, song, or work of art, remind yourself immediately that these are transitory pleasures, which can’t compensate for the miserable state of the world. The same applies to nature. If you accidentally find yourself enjoying a beautiful view, a walk on the beach, or a stroll through a forest, stop! Remind yourself that the world is full of poverty, illness, and devastation. The beauty of nature is a deception.
Exercise: Once a week, engage in an activity that’s supposed to be enjoyable, but do so while thinking about how pointless it is. In other words, concentrate on removing all sense of pleasure from the pleasurable activity.
11. Ruminate. Spend a great deal of time focused on yourself. Worry constantly about the causes of your behavior, analyze your defects, and chew on your problems. This will help you foster a pessimistic view of your life. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by any positive experience or influence. The point is to ensure that even minor upsets and difficulties appear huge and portentous.
You can ruminate on the problems of others or the world, but make them about you. Your child is sick? Ruminate on what a burden it is for you to take time off from work to care for her. Your spouse is hurt by your behavior? Focus on how terrible it makes you feel when he points out how you make him feel. By ruminating not only on your own problems but also those of others, you’ll come across as a deep, sensitive thinker who holds the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Exercise: Sit in a comfortable chair and seek out negative feelings, like anger, depression, anxiety, boredom, whatever. Concentrate on these feelings for 15 minutes. During the rest of the day, keep them in the back of your mind, no matter what you’re doing.
12. Glorify or vilify the past. Glorifying the past is telling yourself how good, happy, fortunate, and worthwhile life was when you were a child, a young person, or a newly married person—and regretting how it’s all been downhill ever since. When you were young, for example, you were glamorous and danced the samba with handsome men on the beach at twilight; and now you’re in a so-so marriage to an insurance adjuster in Topeka. You should’ve married tall, dark Antonio. You should’ve invested in Microsoft when you had the chance. In short, focus on what you could’ve and should’ve done, instead of what you did. This will surely make you miserable.
Vilifying the past is easy, too. You were born in the wrong place at the wrong time, you never got what you needed, you felt you were discriminated against, you never got to go to summer camp. How can you possibly be happy when you had such a lousy background? It’s important to think that bad memories, serious mistakes, and traumatic events were much more influential in forming you and your future than good memories, successes, and happy events. Focus on bad times. Obsess about them. Treasure them. This will ensure that, no matter what’s happening in the present, you won’t be happy.
Exercise: Make a list of your most important bad memories and keep it where you can review it frequently. Once a week, tell someone about your horrible childhood or how much better your life was 20 years ago.
13. Find a romantic partner to reform. Make sure that you fall in love with someone with a major defect (cat hoarder, gambler, alcoholic, womanizer, sociopath), and set out to reform him or her, regardless of whether he or she wants to be reformed. Believe firmly that you can reform this person, and ignore all evidence to the contrary.
Exercise: Go to online dating sites and see how many bad choices you can find in one afternoon. Make efforts to meet these people. It’s good if the dating site charges a lot of money, since this means you’ll be emotionally starved and poor.
14. Be critical. Make sure to have an endless list of dislikes and voice them often, whether or not your opinion is solicited. For example, don’t hesitate to say, “That’s what you chose to wear this morning?” or “Why is your voice so shrill?” If someone is eating eggs, tell them you don’t like eggs. Your negativity can be applied to almost anything.
It helps if the things you criticize are well liked by most people so that your dislike of them sets you apart. Disliking traffic and mosquitos isn’t creative enough: everyone knows what it’s like to find these things annoying, and they won’t pay much attention if you find them annoying, too. But disliking the new movie that all your friends are praising? You’ll find plenty of opportunities to counter your friends’ glowing reviews with your contrarian opinion.
Exercise: Make a list of 20 things you dislike and see how many times you can insert them into a conversation over the course of the day. For best results, dislike things you’ve never given yourself a chance to like.
I’ve just listed 14 ways to make yourself miserable. You don’t have to nail every one of them, but even if you succeed with just four or five, make sure to berate yourself regularly for not enacting the entire list. If you find yourself in a therapist’s office—because someone who’s still clinging to their love for you has tricked you into going—make sure your misery seems organic. If the therapist enlightens you in any way or teaches you mind-body techniques to quiet your anxious mind, make sure to co-opt the conversation and talk about your misery-filled dreams from the night before. If the therapist is skilled in dream analysis, quickly start complaining about the cost of therapy itself. If the therapist uses your complaints as a launching pad to discuss transference issues, accuse him or her of having countertransference issues. Ultimately, the therapist is your enemy when trying to cultivate misery in your life. So get out as soon as possible. And if you happen upon a therapist who’ll sit quietly while you bring all 14 items on this list to life each week, call me. I’ll want to make an appointment, too.
The real depth of any story is not whether the character achieves the goal but who they become as they face the obstacles along the path.
How to Develop a Story
From a writer’s perspective, a story has to first develop a character that we care about, and we wonder what will happen to them. Donald Miller, in his book A Million Miles in a Hundred Steps says that the character must “save the cat”. The character must do something charitable that shows there is a decent human inside. Rocky always does 3-4 charitable things in the first 20 minutes of each film that follows the boxer.
Step 1: “Save the Cat” – our main character does something that gets us to love him
Once we care, then something has to happen to force the character to show their hand. In real life, we don’t change unless we are changed by events. In the words of Soren Kierkegaard “the only precursor to change is crisis”.
So story step number 2: a crisis. Something that forces the character to commit to the goal. In Star Wars, Luke returns from the desert trip to find his aunt and uncle have been murdered by Imperial Stormtroopers. He commits to travel with Obi-wan to space.
Step 2: The Inciting Event – something external kicks our loveable character off of the sofa
We are now on the journey.
Joseph Campbell speaks of this moment as the Portal to Adventure. Often the character will have approached this portal a few times in the past, only to turn back at the last moment. Something happens to push them over the edge. It might be a mentor that says “things will be ok for you”. It might be a love interest who says “do it for me!” It might be a coincidence that the hero reads as divine message saying “it is you”.
The adventure begins. Often a few easy victories give the hero (and the readers) a sense that this is going to work out well.
In an interesting story, there are positive turns and negative turns. In Homer’s Odysseus, the hero makes amazing progress towards his home using the magic of the wind that the Gods gave to him in a bag. Joy. Progress. Then, the crew open the bag to see if they can get home even quicker. Opening the bag is a negative turn. The uncontrolled wind escapes from the bag and blows the ship way, way, way back far, far, far away from home, even further than from where they had begun.
The positive turns allow us to keep the reader engaged and hopeful of the final outcome.
The negative turns allow us to develop the character of the hero. Kurt Vonnegut says “Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.”
Step 3: Positive Turns, Negative Turns
The trials and tribulations, hopes and dashed dreams continue for a while. We are watching the hero gather resources, make friends, identify enemies, trust those that are not worthy of trust, disobey those that should really have been obeyed – make a mess out of easy situations, and just pull it together to make it through the difficult challenges.
Then, the novelty wears off and the hero realises that they don’t feel like they are making progress. I am reminded of the feeling when I sail between the coast and an island. When I set out from the shore of Australia to sail to the Whitsunday islands, at first the coast behind me got rapidly smaller – I felt like I was flying out to sea. Then comes the interminable middle. The coast is no longer shrinking, but the islands don’t seem to be getting any bigger. All I know is that wave after wave is hitting my boat. I stay in this state for hours. Then, all of a sudden, the islands rapidly grow larger and larger.
In the interminable middle, the hero must find a way to overcome self doubt as well as the many obstacles that block the path to the goal.
We then reach a point of disillusion. This is the point of abandon. The hero is tired, has lost sight of the original goal, feels like they are making no progress.
The hero wants to give up. It feels pointless to go on.
Again, in good story, we need an external cause that pushes the hero to one last push. It might be a friend that reappears and supports. It might be an evil enemy doing something that is double the despicable of anything he has done before. It might be the loss of the hero’s closest ally. It might be the death of the hero’s mentor (remember Obi-Wan sacrificing himself to Darth?).
The hero, this time without hope for themselves, having lost their own ego reason for taking up the original mission takes one last push – and this push is enough to break the deadlock of the interminable middle and open up the return home.
Step 4: Disillusionment and the Point of Abandon, The Final Push
The hero has achieved the original goal. Prometheus achieves stealing fire from the Gods and returns to the world. Luke and his allies blow up the Death Star with a last, final, spiritually enhanced missile (“just like shooting swamp rats back home!”).
The hero returns to his village, to those that knew him before his journey.
Sometimes the return is the most challenging. The hero has become a very different person though the obstacles they have overcome, but their mother and father, their brothers and sisters still see the old version of the person. It takes tremendous effort to get the old friends and family to see the new person and let go of the old person.
In a movie, we leave the cinema with a sense of closure, that a full cycle has finished. In a book we finish with a sense that the universe has been restored to a new point of equilibrium. In real life, we realise that this epic story is just a tiny sub-plot in a bigger and bigger story. In real life, the meaning is not designed into the events by an author, it is we ourselves who must create the meaning that can fit the events of our lives and give us the feeling that it is worth waking up again and experiencing more tomorrow.
Step 5: The Return
This then, is a story:
Hero + Goal + Obstacles + Resources + Friends + Enemies + Learning and Growing to become the person that can succeed