“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”
Seth Godin (Founder; Yoyodyne Entertainment)
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Albert Einstein (Scientist and Nobel Laureate)
“Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.”
Timothy Ferriss (Author; The 4-Hour Work Week)
Get rid of the negative people dragging you down and pursue what you’re passionate about without looking back.
I used to work at a grocery store in high school stocking shelves. I had eight different bosses. I don’t remember any of their names.
The head store manager wore a ridiculous gold vest that barely fit him and the general manager wore a bright blue vest. They’d both get really stressed out and yell at everyone at the end of the month because that’s when they had to report their profits and losses to our corporate headquarters.
Getting yelled at by grown men in bright vests is embarrassing. If anyone I knew from school came into the store I would hide behind a wall of milk crates in the diary fridge until they left.
My last year of graduate school was an epic fail. I published a few papers and finished my thesis but my mentor wouldn’t let me defend my thesis for another year. He kept pushing back my graduation date over and over and over again. Nothing’s worse than someone dangling the keys to your future in front of your face and telling you to jump.
I thought about quitting every day. I wanted to escape. I felt like the spark inside of me was slowly dying—like I was being suffocated and there was nothing I could do about it but watch. It’s the same feeling I used to get as a kid when my parents were fighting but I was too young to leave the house. Or when I moved in with a girl for the first time and the relationship dragged on like a death sentence because I was too poor to break the lease.
Eventually I made it through these negative events. No matter how trapped I was at the time, I always managed to escape to a better life. It didn’t happen overnight and I didn’t do it on my own, but it happened. I always found a way through. Looking back I realized that the way through was always the same.
Negative People Will Destroy Your Life
If you don’t take the effects of negativity seriously, you’ll never reach your full potential. Your brain has a negativity bias—it has a preference for negative information over positive information.
Studies show that negative information is quickly routed through your amygdala and into your long-term memory banks while positive information has to be held in your awareness for more than 12 seconds to be stored in your long-term memory banks.
Other studies show that being exposed negativity, like a friend complaining or your boss yelling at you, for just 30 minutes starts to peel away neurons in your hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for problem solving. One of these studies found that teenagers who vented to each other about their problems for long periods of time were more likely to develop depression and anxiety. Even watching negative reality TV shows has been shown to make people more neurotic and depressed.
The Magic Of Change
Change will make you happy. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in regulating pleasure. Recent research shows that dopamine also regulates the motivation to act. People who feel stuck in their own lives—unmotivated, depressed, out of options—often have decreased levels of dopamine. Similar research shows that one of the best ways to increase your dopamine levels is by making significant changes to your life.
Most people just want to talk about escaping from the things they hate in life. They don’t actually want to escape. This is because escaping involves change. It involves some level of uncertainty. You can’t break free from negative people or negative events without first breaking free from your comfort zone. If you’re unwilling to step outside of your comfort zone, you’ll never escape from the negative things you’re dealing with. The only way to escape is to take new action when you least feel like it.
Delete Negative People From Your Life
The people you allow in your life will affect your emotions, your decisions, and your actions. Most importantly, they will affect your options. You’ll never reach your full potential if you keep giving your valuable time and energy to negative people.
Stop letting everyone into your life. Start making room for your biggest dreams. Start making room for new, positive people who will support you and like you just the way you are. If you’ve already let negative people into your life, cut them out. If you can’t cut them out, use them to your advantage. Here are four techniques for dealing with negative people:
A) The channeling technique.
Use your brain’s negativity bias to your advantage. Someone told me that Atlantic codfish were in high demand in America at the turn of the century. News of how good these fish taste spread across the country all the way to the West Coast.
But there was a problem. How could the West Coast restaurants who wanted to serve Atlantic codfish get the fish across the country and still keep them fresh? They tried to freeze the fish and send them by rail, which was the fastest means at the time. But, when the West Coast restaurants received the fish and prepared them, they turned out to be very mushy and lacked their original flavor.
A little later, someone decided to try shipping the fish live by turning the railroad cars into huge saltwater aquariums. When the Atlantic codfish arrived to the West Coast restaurants, they were still alive. But, when they were prepared, they were still mushy and tasteless. A few years down the road, a young scientist started studying the codfish and discovered that their natural enemy was the catfish. The scientist recommended that the West Coast restaurants ship the codfish in the huge saltwater aquariums as before but, this time, with a few catfish.
The catfish chased the codfish all the way across the country to the West Coast restaurants. When the codfish arrived and were prepared, they were flaky and had the same flavor as when they were caught fresh.The catfish kept the codfish from becoming stale.
In the same way, if you have a negative person in your life who you can’t escape by traditional means—walking away, ignoring them, going around them—then use them to your advantage. Channel their negative energy into positive action. Let them sharpen you until you’re in a position to leave them behind forever.
B) The fog technique.
When negative people have authority over you, the best way to deal with them is to conceal your goals. By doing this, you prevent them from working against you in the future. You take away their targets. If they don’t know what you really want, they can’t hold you back.
In graduate school, I made the mistake of telling my academic advisor that I wanted to get a job in industry. A few months later when we got into a dispute, he used this information against me. He purposely held me back to keep me from taking a position at a company that really wanted to hire me.
After I missed out on this first job, I decided to stop talking with my advisor about my future career plans. I let it seem as though I wasn’t in a hurry to graduate and that I would probably just take some time off and travel or whatever.
Without a defined target to attack—without a goal to work against—my advisor was left confused and disarmed. In the same way, you can disarm the negative people in your life by creating a fog around your goals. Resist showing negative people your cards because they might play them against you.
C) The investment technique.
Not all negative people are useless. In fact, some of them might be smarter or more talented than you. The negative people we come across in life often have similar interests to us, which is why we come across them in the first place.
Don’t let your own emotions cloud the fact that some negative people have qualities that you could benefit from. For example, if a negative person is effectively damaging your reputation online, you could hire him for his online promotional skills. Likewise, if a negative person is stealing your biggest clients, you could buy him out or strike up a partnership.
The best way to disarm negative people is to honor them. By honoring a negative person, you can earn a level of trust and respect from him that surpasses even the trust and respect of a close friend. If someone in your life is driving you nuts, step back and evaluate the situation clearly. See if there’s anything about that person you could invest in. Once invested, you two can work together to drive your mutual enemies nuts instead.
D) The void technique.
Negative people need you to survive. They need you to channel their frustrations and failures onto. Bringing you down makes them feel better. But, when you disappear—when you create a void—you force negative people to carry the full weight of their own troubles.
The void can be used to break your enemies. This is what the Russians did in 1812 when Napoleon invaded their country. In The 33 Strategies of War, author Robert Green tells the story of how the Russians, instead of engaging Napoleon in battle, offered no resistance. They simply retreated further and further into their country.
As Napoleon and his men marched deeper into Russia without being engaged, they became increasingly agitated, desperate, and weak. Without battle, Napoleon’s army had no victory, no direction, no moral boost, and no food or supplies to plunder. Napoleon made one rash decision after another, pushing his weakened army further East in an attempt to illicit a response from the Russians. By the time he reached Moscow, his initial force of 450,000 men was reduced to 100,000 by disease and starvation. Napoleon was defeated by the void.
The void technique will draw negative people closer to you before removing them altogether. Once a negative person realizes you’re no longer interacting with them, he’ll do everything within his power to get you to reengage. Since they’ve been close to you in the past, they’ll know exactly how to bait you into conflict. Fight the urge to engage. Trust the void. It will get worse, but then it will get better—much better.
Attract Positive, Like-minded People
Happiness and success are transferred through social networks like viruses. Scientists have calculated that having just one happy and successful friend increases your chances of becoming happy and successful by 15%. In fact, having just one happy and successful friend of a friend increases your chances by 10% and having one happy and successful friend of a friend of a friend increases your chances by 6%.
There are 7 billion people on the planet. You think it would be easier to find people who want to support you and who like you just the way you are. The problem is the average person fails to make room for positive, supportive people in his life. He’s held on to too many negative relationships and has given in to feelings of guilt and obligation too many times.
Increasing your communication skills is the first step to attracting positive and like-minded people into your life. In the book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success, Dan Schawbel polled hundreds of successful people on the traits they looked for in potential collaborators and colleagues. 98% responded with “communication skills.” A large-scale survey performed by the Center for Creative Leadership found that having poor communication skills is the number one reason promising careers go off course. But, being a good communicator means much more than just writing or speaking well.
Good communicators are able to express themselves effectively while also being receptive to others. They are experts at adding value and leaving any situation better off than how they found it. Here are seven ways to increase your communication skills so you can attract more positive, like-minded people into your life.
A) Express yourself openly.
Learn to convey your feelings easily to other people without making them uncomfortable. The best way to do this is by using your body, not your words.
Studies from MIT show that people who incorporate lots of the unconscious gestures and expressions are more charismatic. People who talk fast while using strong facial and bold mannerisms were ranked more positively in terms of communication than those who did not.
B) Be sensitive to the situation.
Sensitive people are good communicators because they are receptive—they’re able to read others, or feel out a room, much more quickly and accurately than the average person.
The best and most convenient way to increase your sensitivity to others is by reading fiction. Studies have shown that reading literary fiction improves your ability to detect and understand other people’s emotions better and faster. Reading literary fiction has also been shown to increase your ability to navigate social networks easier.
C) Calibrate yourself to the situation.
Calibration describes the ability to adjust your persona to match the mood and social makeup of any group. Once you’ve correctly sensed the mood of a situation, you have to adjust yourself to it. Too many people walk into a room, sense something is wrong or different, and then go on acting as if everything is normal. This is a mistake.
If you walk into a room and sense that things are just a bit off, the first thing you should do is look at other people’s body language. Who’s being aggressive? Who’s being defensive? Who’s neutral? Calibrate yourself to the middle of the group’s mood until you figure out what’s going on. Only then should you try to adjust the mood of the room one way or another.
D) Arouse people to action.
Some people walk into a room and light it up, others walk into a room and kill it. The difference between these two types of people is arousal. Good communicators are deft at arousing others to action. They excite people, make them laugh, inspire them, and ultimately motivate them to action.
The key to arousing others to action is tapping into their limbic system, which is the part of the brain that controls emotion. Science shows that the best emotions to tap into for this are excitement and a sense of awe. If you want to drive someone to act, get them excited about their life or fill them with a sense of awe over what is possible for their life.
E) Communicate your ideas clearly.
How you say something is just as important as what you’re saying.
Too many people lack communication skills, not because they can’t communicate, but because they can’t communicate effectively. The biggest communication mistake people make is sacrificing clarity to either cleverness or significance.
Don’t try so hard to be clever that you confuse people with what you’re saying. Likewise, don’t inflate the complexity of a topic just to seem more important.
F) Be interesting.
Don’t be a one trick pony. Instead, develop a deep, layered, and multi-faceted personality. The best way to do this is to start pursuing something completely outside of your comfort zone—something you have no experience with. If you’re a middle manager who spends all day in an office, start learning how to surf. If you’re a beach bum, start an online business. The more variety you add to your life, the more interesting you’ll be to others.
G) Get present.
The most important part of being a good communicator is being a good listener. Nothing is more powerful than being fully in the moment with someone. This kind of presence is so rare nowadays that people rarely forget it. By getting present with others, you’ll become more memorable and more influential.
Create Purpose-Driven Income
Create a purpose for your life, rally people around it, and then launch helpful products and services to these people. If you like working for other people, that’s fine too. The same sequence applies. Create your purpose, network, and then find a job that fits your purpose and network. Not the other way around. The key to living a rich and mobile lifestyle is to follow the right sequence.
Purpose. Platform. Product
Notice this is the exact opposite of what most people do. Most people see a job they want, apply to it, build a network, and then try to find some type of meaning in it. Other people have a million-dollar idea, turn it into a product, try to find clients for it, and then try to derive a sense of meaning from it. Both of these options always lead to failure. Always.
People don’t rally around products and jobs postings. They rally around individuals who have a strong purpose. Likewise, products launched without testing—without feedback from a strong network—will always fail. The only way to reach ultimate levels of success and fulfillment in your life is to move from purpose to platform to product. No other sequence will suffice. Here are three strategies that will help you do this:
A) Start at the end.
Salary promotions and job titles are not endpoints. They’re merely benchmarks. Your real endpoint in life, the overall goal you should be chasing, is a lifestyle—it’s a list of the actions you want to wake up and do on a daily basis. These actions might include working out, walking on the beach, traveling, presenting, reading, writing, having interesting conversations, teaching others, on and on.
Too many people are working their lives away in exchange for an imaginary better life. But there is no better life for them because they’ve never defined what a better life is to them. These people don’t even know where they’re going. They’re just staying busy. They’re diligently scribbling down to-do lists and filling their weekly calendars without ever thinking about their endpoint.
Your dream lifestyle is not going to create itself. Don’t make believe that there’s a team of people building you nirvana while you grind it out day-to-day doing the same thing. Stop, take a look around, take a look ahead, and decide where you want to go. Define your endpoint—your list of daily actions—and then work backwards to get there.
B) Prioritize based on goals.
Logically organize your priorities in life based on your goals, not on your feelings and not on to-do lists. This will allow you to make rational rather than whimsical decisions. You purpose in life is not just the goals you want to achieve, it’s how you want to live your life.
A person whose top priorities are connection and contribution is going to live a very different life than the person whose top priorities are image and security. First, you need to figure out the priorities you’ve been living your life by up until now—your real priorities. Be honest with yourself. What are the priorities currently guiding your life?
Second, you need to create new priorities for your life. You get to choose how you want to live. Figure out what you want and then create new priorities that will help you get there.
C) Turn your fantasies into tangible outcomes.
Everyone has a dream. That’s because dreaming is easy. Creating a fuzzy picture of a happier, richer, and more popular version of yourself is easy. But, defining exactly what happiness looks like for you or exactly how much money you would need to feel rich, with a deadline, is not so easy. It’s hard to know where to start.
The only way to get what you truly want in life is to stop dreaming and to start taking action. This means figuring out exactly what you want and then mapping out a plan for getting it. The best way to do this is to create specific and measurable outcomes that excite you just by thinking about them. If done correctly, the process of doing this can be fun. But, it’s not going to happen on it’s own. You need to act. You need to get specific, name what you want, and do something about it right now.
The fun, free, and full life you’ve always wanted can be yours. All you have to do is escape from the negative people holding you back and attract positive, like-minded people in their place. Once you’re free, you’ll have the time, energy, and motivation you need to find your purpose and create purpose-driven income streams.
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