November 29, 2012

On focus and self-confidence

I've examined a lot of different types of people: athletes, successful business people, you name it. They tend to share one thing in common and that is self-confidence that borders on belief.

The following is not going to be an academic paper. I've read my fair share of mental toughness books and have had a large amount of exposure to what needs to mentally done in order to perform well in a given activity. What I'm more interested in is providing a slightly opinionated summary of some of those things based on that research data and some empirical observations.

People who lack confidence tend to lack focus. It's probably because they lack confidence. I'm sure everyone has felt some type of confidence in their life before where you were doing something exceptionally well and knew that you would continue that over the course of the activity. Do you sometimes wish that you could re-capture that focus and apply it all the time? Well, I do too. The fact of the matter is that being self-confident is extremely important but you're never going to feel that way 100% of the time. Everyone is going to have those moments of weakness. Your job in staying self-confident in general is to attempt to time those moments so that they occur at non-critical times.

You shouldn't be thinking about some important thing in your life in the middle of a test or a sporting event; you should be focused on the task at hand and nothing else. So much of what we do is based in the mind. That's one of the reasons why people tend not to excel in activities if they have something big going on in their lives that they might be worried about. You've got to deal with that stuff first before you can expect to perform.

I always found that a nice technique was to imagine how bad failure in a given area would affect you on a scale of 1 to 10 and then compare yourself to starving children in the world or something like that and ask yourself if you've really got it so bad. Chances are, you don't. If you do, you've got my sympathies, believe me. But it's just a nice way of putting things into perspective and lessening that innate ego that we all have. Nope, unfortunately we're not the center of the universe but maybe we can be a little happier in it if we can apply ourselves the way we would like to.

People have a lot going on in their lives and sometimes you've got to make difficult choices as to what you would like to focus on for the short-term. I have some personal experience with this and it sucks. It requires some type of active sacrifice. I firmly believe that if you're focusing on more than a few things at a given time you'll start to perform poorly in all of them. I should know because I've done exactly that and have noted the resources.

It's hard to live in the moment and let that take over your mind. When you're writing a test, nothing else matters. When you're about to take a shot in that basketball game, nothing else matters.

We're scatterbrained by default. It's hard to fight that nature but it does tend to interfere with performance.

People (like me) will tell you to do certain things in certain ways and they might even be right. But, I'd like to point out that some days it rains and there's just nothing you can do about. The key is not to focus on things that are not in your control sphere. But there's an important disclaimer to that: not to blame things outside of your control when it's really your fault. That usually happens when ego comes in and that's one fine line to walk because loads of self-confidence is basically like inviting ego to the party. I believe that if you're aware of ego, you should be able to keep it at bay though you will slip up there from time to time as well.

In the end it's everything in moderation and that does apply to focus as well.

November 27, 2012

A Firefly By Moonlight

A firefly by moonlight does but flicker brightly
Its will a flame of red passion burning nightly
When I woke at twilight, it was in my ire
That I saw posts screaming neon – not fire

For the flame is as much the match that strikes
And a firefly is as embers and night are alike
Through smouldering, the heart it does consume
To replace your sun in a grave yet not exhumed

Shine on, fair firefly and fade into the bleak
Night’s cloak like a torn canvas of red leaks
Do not hurry, for time has never been a race
For even warmth can come from night’s embrace

November 15, 2012

Of Love and Stars

You feel like your heart is split in two
Like they’re trying to keep it from you
There’s a part that shines as bright as stars
And a part that still wishes it was yours

I don’t ever want to make you feel uneasy
Like love wouldn’t be enough to please me
But I’ll shoot for the moon and make you mine
Because our star light glows brighter than sunshine

Connect the dots in the sky and our hearts
We’ll paint a pretty Picasso or some better art
We’ll sew it up and throw it back in your chest
But your heart on your sleeve did suit you best

November 1, 2012

It's okay to go against the flow sometimes

I've had a rough week. I realized very quickly and almost shockingly that I am wholly incapable of simultaneously satisfying the needs and wants of a large group of people. Specifically, it's a large group of people with wildly different sets of wants. In business terms, I have failed to satisfy demand.

Let me preface the following by explaining that I've gotten "butchered" on a few reports and the like this week and I'm feeling extremely bitter. I've gotten a few marks back that I completely disagree with on every single fundamental level I have. And it all boils down to one thing: ego.

Not my ego (though that's pretty big too), but the ego of those whom I'm trying to satisfy. Self-absorbed people who think that their way is best and that no one else knows better. You know the kind of people I'm talking about: "It has to be this way. That's just the way that things work."

Here's a newsflash for you: that's not the way the world works.

The main concept here, above marks, above ego, above everything, is the fact that other people LOVE to give unsolicited advice.

It could be anything. For instance, "I think you should take this course." "I don't like the way you write." "You need to go to the gym."

It could be anything but it's all bullshit in the end. Let me explain why.

Most criticisms people have of you stems from some inner insecurity that they're not consciously aware of. Maybe the person telling you to go to the gym does think you're fat, but maybe they were made fun of as a kid and thus have issues with anyone that they perceive to be obese. They've jumped the line. They don't just want to see improvement, they see problems with those that disagree with their points of view. And that's a scary trend that I'm seeing more and more of as my rose-colored glasses are slowly being lifted.

People have their opinions and if you don't conform with the group, you must be wrong. That's what these thought processes have evolved into. Those who disagree are churned by society. Let me give an example of one person with different opinions and who acted differently. Everyone thought he was messed up. It's Albert Einstein.

Einstein was at odds with traditional school systems of his era. He expressed his thoughts that rote learning, a process based upon repetition in order to rapidly recall the meaning of words and phrases had eroded the learning process. In short, he thought one way and everyone else around him thought another way. Conventional society dictates that Einstein must be wrong. Whatever you think of relativity, you'll probably agree that he turned out to be a pretty smart guy though he had a fundamental gripe with the way that things were being taught.

Which brings me to my next point: just because many people do it or think it's right, I don't think that justifies following the pack. Applying this to what I've written above, just because the norm is to think one way, it doesn't mean that you should blindly agree like cattle.

They want things a certain way. They always will. If you're in school, give them what they want. Yes, they're on so much crack, but let them be because it's what makes them happy. Sooner or later they're gonna offer you crack too: "You have to take this. It's the right thing to do and everyone is doing it." But you know what? You don't have to do anything you don't want to and you sure as fuck shouldn't listen to people you think are wrong. Don't always go against the majority, just stick to your guns on things you're passionate about. Tell people giving unsolicited advice of any kind to fuck the hell off and don't take crack even though everyone around you is on it. Vote for freedom of mind.