ADVICE FROM A MONK IN A HOT TUB
“You know what your problem is?
“No,” I respond, surprised and, to be honest, mildly annoyed, “What is my problem?
“You have low self-esteem.”
“I don’t think so,” I reply, as reasonably as I can, trying to hide my growing irritation. “I think I’m pretty confident. I run a business. I’m thrilled with my life—”
“No no no no no.” He cuts me off. “You have low self-esteem. This is the cause of all your problems. I’ve observed you. When you’re brainstorming with your partner and he shoots down one of your ideas, you get agitated and defensive. I bet you have issues with your wife, and I bet you have issues with others. You cannot take criticism. It’s all because of one thing: You have low self-esteem.”
It was like a smack in the face. The warm water in the hot tub no longer felt so comforting. The monk was dead-on. And after nine days of meditation and self-reflection, I was more open to this sort of insight, even if it was painful to hear.
I was overly defensive in brainstorming meetings, especially with my business partner. I did often feel hurt or misunderstood in family situations. But the real problem wasn’t that someone was shooting down my idea, not listening to me, or misunderstanding me. It all boiled down to a deeply buried belief that I, by myself, was not enough.
It’s why I became an entrepreneur. To prove I was worthy and enough.
It’s why I built the most beautiful office in my city. To prove I could do it.
It was why I became wealthy. To prove something.
I could see how this belief that I needed to prove that I was enough—this model of reality I’d held for so long—had driven me into the arms of success. But I could also see how the idea that I had to prove myself had caused great pain in my life. Was it possible that without this limiting belief, I might be even more successful in my work and relationships—without paying such a high personal price?
What might happen if I developed a belief that I was enough and had nothing to prove?
Our models of reality are often unknown to us. Some models we know we have. For example, I know I believe in the importance of having a calling, in the power of gratitude, and in being kind to the people I work with. But we also have models of reality embedded deep within that we’re mostly unaware of. What you know you believe is much smaller than what you don’t know you believe.
LESSON 1: Our models of reality lie below the surface. Often we do not realize we have them until some intervention or contemplative practice makes us aware.
Much of growing wiser and moving toward the extraordinary is really about becoming aware of the models of reality that you carry with you without realizing it.
I was unaware I had a belief that I was not enough. Identifying it and learning to resolve it made a huge impact on the quality of my life and how I behaved as a friend, colleague, and lover.
THE GIRL AT THE DANCE
For most of us, they come from our childhood.
I grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but was of northern Indian origin, so I looked different from the other kids at my school, who were of Chinese or Southeast Asian origin. I had skin of a different color, a bigger nose, more body hair. It was tough being a minority kid. I was ridiculed and called names in elementary school, including Gorilla Boy because I had hair on my legs and Hook Nose because of my large Roman nose. As a result, I grew up believing I was different. I hated my long nose and my “gorilla” legs.
When I turned thirteen, my father enrolled me in a private school for expat children. Surrounded by diversity, with kids from some fifteen countries in my class, I felt somewhat normal. But adolescence had other challenges. I developed severe chronic acne that landed me in dermatologists’ offices, and I was on frequent acne medication by age sixteen. That earned me yet another name at school: Pimple Face. It got worse. By my teen years, my eyes had deteriorated to the point where I had to wear glasses with superthick lenses. They broke frequently, and I’d patch them with tape, making me a walking stereotype of the nerd with tape on his glasses. As you can imagine, teenage life for me was not particularly easy.
My negative beliefs about my appearance wrecked my confidence for the first decades of my life. I was socially awkward. I hardly went out with friends. I had crushes on girls but never had the guts to ask anyone out.
In college at the University of Michigan, I saw myself as the engineering geek, the guy girls might want as a friend but no one wanted to date. Thus I found myself at twenty-two, a college junior, never having had a girlfriend.
Then something changed. And it started with a kiss.
It happened at a college dance. I’d had one too many beers, which is probably the only reason I was dancing with the prettiest girl in the room. Her name was Mary. I’d known her for years and had always admired her, but she was way out of my league.
To this day I don’t know what came over me, but while we were dancing, I leaned in and kissed her. Immediately I pulled back, babbling something like, “I’m so sorry—I didn’t mean to do that.” I expected Mary to be offended.
Instead, she looked at me and said, “Are you kidding? You’re f**king hot.” Then the prettiest girl in the room grabbed me and locked her lips with mine. One thing led to another, and that ended up being one of the most amazing nights of my college life.
When a model of reality changes, the way you operate in the world changes, too. I woke the next day feeling as if I’d awakened in a whole new reality. If Mary, the prettiest girl in the room, thought I was hot, maybe I wasn’t so unattractive, and maybe other women could think so, too.
That single realization ended my belief that I was invisible to women. It radically transformed my ability to communicate with the opposite sex. Thanks to Mary, my dating life took off. Nothing about my appearance had changed. But armed with a new model of reality about my attractiveness, I suddenly seemed to be a magnet for female attention. It was amazing how a belief, when shifted, could create such a dramatic turnaround in my world.
Shortly thereafter, I met up with another beautiful woman, Kristina, whom I’d had a crush on for a long time. I’d known her for years as a friend and always considered her the dream woman. Beautiful, bold, highly intelligent. And a redhead. I loved redheads.
But this time, with my new model of reality, I approached Kristina differently. We started dating. Three years later, I proposed. Today, fifteen years later, we’re still together, with two wonderful kids.
Now I go on stage without feeling awkward. I go on camera without fearing how I look. All because one girl I had great admiration for helped me turn around a long-held model of reality. I had a lot more damaging beliefs to heal, but it was proof that with the right force, even entrenched childhood models of reality can be completely disrupted. And when it happens, the rewards can be amazing.
LESSON 2: We often carry disempowering models of reality that we inherited as far back as childhood.
THE HYPNOTIST IN THE HOTEL ROOM
In 2015 I had an experience that helped me knock down another model of reality that was having an incredibly limiting impact on my life: I could not hold onto money. My business was doing well, but I was extremely uncomfortable taking ownership of the financial gains. My festival-like event, A-Fest, for example, was profitable, but I was giving away 100 percent of the profits to good causes without actually keeping anything as a reward. I was the coauthor of several personal development courses, but I’d never negotiated for the higher royalty I felt I deserved. This detachment from material wealth wasn’t a totally bad thing. But I also felt it had a downside, as it could limit the growth of my businesses and projects.
Marisa is an extraordinary individual who has helped people with serious problems have profound breakthroughs in personal growth very quickly. Marisa is one of the most powerful transformers of human belief systems I had ever come across; her work and her results are legendary. She counts the British royal family and a Who’s Who list of Hollywood celebs among her clientele.
Marisa’s speech at that A-Fest had commanded a standing ovation and was voted the best presentation of the event. In her speech, Marisa explained that the biggest ailment afflicting human beings is the idea of “I am not enough.” This childhood belief carries well into adulthood and becomes the root cause of a lot of our problems.
My aim was this: I wanted to understand my attitude about money. I wondered if it connected with some models of reality I might need to get rid of.
Marisa guided me into a regression, sifting through memories and images from my life. I felt as if I was drifting off into a light nap as she guided me with her voice. “Go back to a moment in your past when you first developed this belief,” she said.
Suddenly, I saw Mr. John, a teacher I’d had as a teenager. I adored him, and he was an incredible teacher. But while everyone in the class liked him, we all felt sorry for him. He always seemed so lonely. We knew his wife had left him. We knew he lived in a small apartment and didn’t have much money. But we loved him; we spent a lot of time talking about what a great guy he was and what a shame it was that he was in that situation.
“Can you see a thought pattern that you may have developed from this moment?” Marisa asked. And I realized that the Brule I’d internalized was:
To be a great teacher, you have to suffer.
I saw myself as a teacher because I run an education company and speak and write on personal growth. And I had an unconscious belief that I had to suffer in order to be a great teacher—which in my case manifested as having to be broke.
But Marisa didn’t stop there. She made me regress to another moment. I saw myself in the back seat of my parents’ car. It was my birthday. I was maybe nine or ten. My parents were driving me to a store to buy me a birthday gift. I was pretending to be asleep, but I could hear them talking in a worried way about money. At the time my parents were not wealthy, but they had enough. My mom was a public school teacher and my dad was a small entrepreneur. I remembered a feeling of guilt washing over me about my birthday gift. At the store, I picked out a book. “That’s all?” my mom asked. “You can pick out something more.” So I picked up a hockey stick. She said, “It’s your birthday. You can have more.” But I didn’t want to burden my parents with any more expenses. That memory crystallized another model of reality I’d been carrying around:
Don’t ask for too much because someone will get hurt if you do.
We kept going. I regressed to another moment. I was sixteen, standing in the hot sun on a basketball court. The head of my school, a burly former weight lifter who, for whatever reason, seemed to despise me, even though I was a top student, was punishing me. That day, I’d forgotten my shorts for physical education class. He punished me for this small infraction by making me stand in the sun for two hours. Then, because I didn’t seem afraid, he amped up the punishment by phoning my father in front of me and saying to me, “You’re expelled from the school.” Then he walked away.
When my father arrived at the school, the headmaster told him, “I’m not really expelling your son. I’m just trying to scare him to teach him a lesson.” My father was livid and confronted him about this extreme behavior in response to such a minor infraction.
I had tolerated being treated in this way.
“Now that you’re an adult, can you see why he did this to you?” Marisa asked. In my mind another Brule surfaced:
Do not stand out. It’s not safe to stand out.
I immediately saw how these three childhood models of reality were holding me back in numerous ways. My beliefs that it was dangerous to stand out, that being a good teacher meant not having wealth, and that I’d hurt or disappoint others if I asked for more, all were undermining me. I had never even realized I held those beliefs. When the beliefs were removed, massive changes occurred in my life.
What happened in the months afterward was incredible. Because my belief about standing out disappeared, I started speaking more. Almost immediately I got two major speaking engagements and my biggest speaking payment yet. I got on camera more and hired my first PR firm. It seemed as if requests for interviews and appearances came out of nowhere. I made the cover of three magazines, was more active on social media, and saw massive rises in the number of followers I had on Facebook.
I also decided I wouldn’t be a suffering teacher anymore. I gave myself the first raise I’d had in five years.
The result? In just four months, I doubled my income. My business began to grow, too. We hit new revenue milestones. It turned out that not only had my beliefs held me back but they had also been holding back my business and everyone who worked for me. These experiences proved to me how erasing old models of reality can have a profound impact on our lives.
LESSON 3: When you replace disempowering models of reality with empowering ones, tremendous changes can occur in your life at a very rapid pace.
THE MEANING-MAKING MACHINE IN YOUR HEAD
Beliefs about the way we look, about our relationship with money, about our self-worth. These beliefs can come from unexpected sources: a bullying teacher, overhearing a conversation between parents or other authority figures, or the attention (or lack thereof) from people we’re attracted to.
As we believe these things to be true, they become true. All of us view the world through our own lens, colored by the experiences, meanings, and beliefs we’ve accumulated over the years.
It’s as if we have a meaning-making machine in our minds that kicks in and creates Brules about every experience we have. So, the kids tease me and call me names. This means I must be ugly. Never mind the fact that a more likely explanation is that those kids were simply being kids, and children sometimes make fun of others. But as a kid I wasn’t mature enough to understand this, so instead I installed the model of reality that I was unattractive.
It runs during childhood and in adulthood, too: while on a date, dealing with your mate and your kids, interacting with your boss, trying to close a business deal, getting a raise (or not), and much more.
We add meanings to every situation we see and then carry these meanings around as simplistic and often distorted and dangerous models of reality about our world. We then act as if these models are laws. The experiences I’ve just described proved it to me personally, but scientists are beginning to study this phenomenon, and the results are astonishing. While the bad news is that our models of reality can cause stress, sadness, loneliness, and worry, the good news is that we can upgrade them. When we swap in optimized models that work better, we dramatically improve our lives.
HOW OUR BELIEFS AFFECT OUR LOOKS AND OUR HEALTH
A simple suggestion can change what we think about ourselves and even our bodies, inside and out. In their report in Psychological Science on the famous study of the hotel maids, the researchers noted that just by being “told that the work they do (cleaning hotel rooms) is good exercise and satisfies the Surgeon General’s recommendations for an active lifestyle,” the women “perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before” and “showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index” compared to those who weren’t told this.
Weirder still, in a 1994 study, ten men with knee pain agreed to take part in a surgical procedure to relieve them of their pain. They were going to go through arthroscopic surgery—or so they thought. In reality, not all ten were going to actually receive the full surgery.
Six months later, none of the men knew who had gotten the full surgery and who had gotten the sham. Yet all ten said their pain was greatly reduced.
Our beliefs about our bodies seem to have an uncanny impact on how we experience our bodies—for good or bad.
HOW OUR BELIEFS INFLUENCE OTHERS
studies by Robert Rosenthal, PhD, on the expectation effect prove just how much our lives are affected by other people’s models of reality, however true or false they might be. After discovering that even lab rats navigated mazes better or worse depending on the expectations of the researchers doing the training (the researchers were basically told that they had either smarter or dumber rats, when in fact all the rats were, well, just rats), Dr. Rosenthal took the inquiry into the classroom.
First, he administered an IQ test to the students. Then teachers were told that five particular students had extra-high scores and were likely to outperform the others. In fact, the kids were randomly selected. But guess what? While the IQ of all of the kids had increased over the school year, those five had much better scores. The now-famous findings, published in 1968, were called the Pygmalion Effect, after the myth about Pygmalion, who fell in love with his sculpture of a gorgeous woman who came alive—much as the teachers’ expectations of those five students became reality.
Bottom line: Your beliefs can influence both you and the people around you. What you expect, you get.
We create models of reality about the behaviors of our spouses, lovers, bosses, employees, children.
Law 4: Rewrite your models of reality.
Extraordinary minds have models of reality that empower them to feel good about themselves and powerful in shifting the world to match the visions in their minds.
HEALTHIER MODELS FOR OURSELVES AND OUR CHILDREN
The monk in the hot tub helped me see past a Brule that I had to keep proving myself to validate my own self-worth. Mary’s kiss shattered my Brule that I was unattractive to women. My session with Marisa shattered my Brules that only those who suffer make good teachers and that my visibility and success could hurt me or others.
I quoted historian Yuval Noah Harari, PhD, who compared children to molten glass when they’re born. Kids are incredibly malleable, taking a huge number of beliefs onboard as they grow up and make meaning of the world around them. Under the age of nine, we’re particularly susceptible to making false meanings and then clinging to them as disempowering models of reality.
How We Form Beliefs as Children
I once asked Shelly, “What’s the single biggest piece of advice you could give a parent?”
Shelly said this: “No matter what you do, in any situation with your child, ask yourself, What beliefs is my child going to take away from this encounter? Will your child walk away thinking: I just made a mistake and I learned something great or I’m insignificant?”
Suppose you’re at the dinner table with your kids and your son drops his fork on the floor. You might say, “Billy, don’t do that.” Now he throws his spoon on the ground. You say, “Billy, I TOLD YOU not to do that. You need to go stand in the corner for ten minutes and think about what you’ve done.”
Maybe Billy dropped his fork by accident, so when you reprimand him, he’s confused: Why doesn’t Mom trust me?
He drops the spoon to validate that belief, and sure enough, Mom gets angry and puts him in a corner. Now he forms a new belief: Mom doesn’t trust me, and I bother her. In the corner, Billy forms yet another belief: I am not worthy and I don’t have a right to speak my mind.
Shelly’s advice is, at the end of any situation like that, ask your child, “Billy, what happened? What was the consequence? What can you learn from this?”
Shelly makes it very clear. Don’t ask Billy, “Why did you do that?” Why questions corner a child and put the child on the defensive. For one thing, the child is emotional, and even many adults can’t answer why in the grip of emotion. For another, it’s not appropriate to expect a young child to be psychologically savvy enough to dive into his own mind and accurately answer why he did what he did.
Instead, ask what questions: “Billy, what happened that made you drop that spoon?” This allows him to look within and think. He might answer, “I dropped it because I thought you weren’t listening to me.” What questions allow you to get to the root of the problem and work to heal it faster.
Shelly notes that why has to do with meaning, and meaning is always made up—a mental construct from the world of relative truth. Even if Billy did know why he dropped the spoon, it wouldn’t be empowering. Getting to the bottom of the situation itself—figuring out the what—allows you to work with your child to do something about it. Bottom line, Shelly suggests that when you walk away from an interaction with your child, ask yourself: What did my child just conclude about that interaction? Did your child walk away thinking: I’m a winner or I’m a loser? I made a mistake and learned something new or I’m an idiot?
Now, even if you’re not a parent, the idea here is quite profound. Imagine all the dangerous beliefs you may have taken on about the world even when the people around you were well-meaning, not to mention what happened when people’s intentions weren’t always the best.
NIGHTTIME EXERCISES TO REWIRE BELIEFS
To my son before night time:
First, I ask him to think of one thing he was grateful for that day
Second, I ask, “Hayden, what did you love about yourself today?”
Exercise: The Gratitude Exercise
Take a few minutes and think of three to five things you’re grateful for today.
Exercise: The “What I Love about Myself” Exercise
You can identify qualities that are big or small, but you must pinpoint three to five things every day that make you proud to be who you are.
You can practice this simple self-affirmation in the morning when waking up or just before going to sleep. For me, it’s helped me heal much of what the monk in the hot tub pointed out to me.
Marisa Peer suggests that all of us have a child within who never received all the love and appreciation we deserved.
EXTERNAL MODELS OF REALITY
Your external models of reality are the beliefs you have about the world around you.
1. We all possess human intuition
Today I strongly believe in intuition and use it in my daily life. It helps me make better decisions, know whom to hire, and even helps me with creative pursuits like writing this book.
Human beings can function as logical beings and as intuitive beings. When we use both capabilities, we’re priming ourselves for extraordinary results.
One is what we might call instinct, It’s connected with prehistoric brain areas and is lightning fast.
The other is the rational side that evolved later, but on which we rely heavily in our lives today.
I believe human intuition is real, and with practice we can get better at tuning into it for decision making. I do not believe you can foretell the future, but I do believe in gut instinct in decision making. I try to listen to my gut on a daily basis. See what happens when you try to do the same.
2. There is power in mind-body healing.
It’s based on the idea that the subconscious mind cannot differentiate between a real and imagined experience. So I started visualizing my skin getting better. I spent just five minutes, three times a day visualizing my skin undergoing healing. I used imagery that felt powerful to me: looking at the sky, reaching out and scooping up some of that radiant blueness, and smoothing it on my face.
Essentially this process trains the subconscious mind to develop a new belief—in my case, my skin is becoming beautiful.
In one month of practicing this technique three times a day for five minutes per session, I ended my acne problem.
3. Happiness at work is the new productivity.
Most of us are told to work hard. Few of us are encouraged to work happy.
This culture of happiness at work significantly helps reduce the immense stress of racing to build a fast-growing company. It’s helped me keep my sanity while working long hours to hit our goals.
Pay someone a compliment about his or her work every day. Or take Richard Branson’s advice. He said: “I have always believed that the benefits of letting your staff have the occasional blast at an after-hours get-together is a hugely important ingredient in the mix that makes for a family atmosphere and a fun-loving, free-spirited corporate culture. It also goes a long way to tearing down any semblance of hierarchy when you’ve seen the CFO doing the limbo with a bottle of beer in her hand.”
4. It is possible to be spiritual but not religious.
Goodness, kindness, and the Golden Rule do not just have to be taught via religion.
Humanism is the idea that we do not need religion in order to be good. It differs from atheism in the sense that humanists believe that there is a “God,” but He’s certainly not the judgmental, angry being that many religious texts make Him out to be. Instead, to a humanist, “God” might be the universe, or the connectedness of life on Earth, or spirit. Humanism is opening up a new spiritual path for people who want to reject the Brules of religion but who don’t embrace atheism. One billion humanists now exist on the planet, and their numbers are growing.
"This new kind of religion asks that you move away from being a follower to being a creator. I foresee a new kind of spiritual creativity, in which we no longer decide whether to believe in a given creed and follow a certain tradition blindly. Now we allow ourselves a healthy and even pious skepticism. Most important, we no longer feel pressure to choose one tradition over another but rather are able to appreciate many routes to spiritual richness. This new religion is a blend of individual inspiration and inspiring tradition."
Today I combine ideas from humanism, pantheism, and spiritual practices like meditation with my family’s own beliefs from Hinduism and Christianity, which I pick and choose depending on how empowering these models feel.
Exercise: Examining Your Models of Reality in the Twelve Areas of Balance
On your computer or in your journal, write down the models of reality that you have in each of these categories. I’ve listed a few common ones to get you started. You should notice a correlation with your results from rating these categories in Chapter 3; in other words, the categories where you assigned the lowest rating may also have the most disempowering models of reality.
- YOUR LOVE RELATIONSHIP. How do you define love? What do you expect from a love relationship, both to receive and to give? Do you believe love brings hurt? Do you believe love can endure? Do you believe you have the capacity to love greatly? Do you believe you deserve to be loved and treasured?
- YOUR FRIENDSHIPS. How do you define friendship? Do you believe that friendships can be long lasting? Do you believe your friends take more from you than they give? Do you believe making friends is easy or hard?
- YOUR ADVENTURES. What’s your idea of an adventure? Is it about travel? Physical activity? Art and culture? Urban or rural sights and sounds? Seeing how people live in places totally different from yours? Are you making time and space for adventure in your life? Do you believe you need to save for retirement before taking a long trip? Would you feel guilty if you left your job or your family to take a holiday by yourself? Do you think that spending money on experiences (such as skydiving) is frivolous?
- YOUR ENVIRONMENT. Where do you feel happiest? Are you content with where and how you live? How do you define “home”? What aspects of your environment are most important to you (colors, sounds, type of furniture, proximity to nature or culture, neatness, level of convenience/luxury items, etc.)? Do you believe you deserve a gorgeous home, to stay in five-star hotels when you travel, and to work in great environments?
- YOUR HEALTH AND FITNESS. How do you define physical health? How do you define healthy eating? Do you believe you’re genetically inclined toward obesity or any other health issues? Do you believe you’ll live as long as or longer than your parents? Do you believe you’re aging well or poorly?
- YOUR INTELLECTUAL LIFE. How much are you learning? How much are you growing? How much control do you have over your mind and your daily thoughts? Do you believe you have adequate intelligence to accomplish your goals?
- YOUR SKILLS. What do you consider something you’re “good” at? And what not so much? Where did those perceptions come from? What holds you back from learning new things? Are there some skills you’re ready to let go of? What keeps you from making the change? What special abilities and character traits do you have that you feel are most valuable? What do you feel you “suck” at?
- YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE. What type of spiritual values do you believe in? How do you practice them and how often? Is spirituality a social or individual experience for you? Are you stuck in models of culture and religion that hold little appeal but that you’re afraid to abandon for fear of hurting others?
- YOUR CAREER. What is your definition of work? How do you define a career? How much do you enjoy your career? Do you feel you’re being noticed and appreciated in your career? Do you feel you have what it takes to succeed?
- YOUR CREATIVE LIFE. Do you believe that you are creative? Is there a creative person you admire? What do you admire about him or her? What creative pursuits do you engage in? Do you believe you have a talent for a specific creative project?
- YOUR FAMILY LIFE. What do you believe is your main role as a life partner? How about as a son or daughter? Is your family life satisfying to you? What were your values about family growing up? Do you believe a family is a burden or an asset to your happiness?
- YOUR COMMUNITY LIFE. Do you share the values of the communities that you’re a part of? What do you believe is the highest purpose of a community? Do you believe you’re able to contribute? Do you feel like contributing?
TWO TOOLS TO REWRITE YOUR MODELS OF REALITY
After doing the exercise above, you should have some idea of the models of reality you need to upgrade. You don’t need to meet with monks in hot tubs.
Bad models can evaporate through sudden realizations—sometimes spontaneous ones (such as I had in the hot tub)—or through meditation, inspirational reading, or other mindfulness practices, including just sitting in a room by yourself, reflecting on your life, and asking yourself, Where did I come up with this particular world view?
Question 1: Is my model of reality absolute or relative truth?
While some things in the world are absolute truths (they hold true for all human beings across every culture—such as the idea that parents must take care of their children when children can’t take care of themselves, or that we all need to eat in order to survive), many things are only relative truth: They’re done differently by different cultures, such as particular ways of parenting, eating, spiritual expression, handling a love relationship, and much more.
Is your model of reality absolute truth or relative truth? If you have a model that isn’t scientifically validated, feel free to challenge it.
Is there an aspect of your culture you know is relative truth for the greater part of humanity? If you still enjoy believing it, do so. But if it’s harmful or results in your having to dress in a certain way, marry in a certain way, or restrict your diet or life in a way you dislike, you owe it to yourself to abandon it. Brules are made to be broken.
Know that whatever your culture trained you to believe, the vast majority of human beings probably do not believe. And you can choose to disbelieve, too. The power to choose what we want to believe and what we want to disbelieve is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.
The best advice is often to listen to your heart and intuition. Remember that our models of reality all have expiration dates. Even what we take to be absolute truth today may not always be a truth in the future. This question is wonderful for situations where our models are indoctrinated through our culture and society. But it’s important to understand that we ourselves also create models of reality via our meaning-making machine.
Question 2: Does this really mean what I think it means?
According to Morty, we can manufacture as many as 500 different “meanings” a week. But as we learn to ask ourselves, Is this really true? Am I 100 percent sure that this is what’s really going on?—we start to reduce the number of meanings.
Morty says it’s easy to get from 500 to 200 a week if you just do an internal inventory at regular intervals to check whether you’re creating meaning where none should exist. Then it’s just about practice. Eventually you stop adding meaning to events. You will become less reactive to stress and less upset with others in your life. It helps your marriage, and I can tell you it will help your relationships with your boss and coworkers. As a CEO leading a team of 200 people, I’ve consistently found that those who had their meaning-making machines under control at work were more effective leaders.
I recorded a longer conversation with Morty on his Lefkoe belief process. This video is very personal to me as it was the last training Morty Lefkoe ever gave before he passed away in November 2015. I feel it is my duty to share his final words of wisdom with you. You can watch the full experience at www.mindvalley.com/extraordinary.
I believe the best thing we can do with outdated models of reality is to let them go gracefully. Turn them into history. Let’s celebrate our extraordinary ability to evolve emotionally, mentally, spiritually throughout life, taking on new ideas, thoughts, philosophies, and ways of being and living. When enough people challenge the Brules and adopt optimal models, you have evolutionary progress of the human race. And when enough people optimize their models all at the same time, you have revolutionary change that acts like a slingshot to hurl us to a new order, powered by the impetus of our collective awakening.
True brilliance is not a function of understanding one’s view of the world and finding order, logic, and spirituality in it. True brilliance is understanding that your view of order, logic, and spirituality is what created your world and therefore being forever capable of changing everything.
-- MIKE DOOLEY
CHAPTER 5 - UPGRADE YOUR SYSTEMS FOR LIVING
Where We Discover How to Get Better at Life by Constantly Updating Our Daily Systems
I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: Constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.
-- ELON MUSK
RICHARD BRANSON’S SECRET SYSTEM
“Richard, you’ve started eight different companies in eight different industries and taken all of them to a billion dollars. That’s huge. If you could summarize in one sentence how you did it, what would you say?”
Richard didn’t blink. He answered immediately like a wise, kind sage. Here’s what he said:
It’s all about finding and hiring people smarter than you, getting them to join your business and giving them good work, then getting out of the way and trusting them. You have to get out of the way so you can focus on the bigger vision. That’s important, but here is the main thing: You must make them see their work as a mission.
His focus is on hiring smart people, giving them freedom and getting out of the way, and continuously thinking of the vision, ensuring that a mission was driving the company.
How we get through our e-mail is often a system. Our work, our parenting, our exercise routine, how we make love and handle relationships, our methods for creativity—all often fall into specific systems for living.
I compare systems for living to the software that computers use to perform specific operations. They’re the things you do to function in the world, from the moment you wake up to your nighttime rituals like putting on your pajamas and reading a book before going to bed. We have societal systems, too, such as our educational system, business structures, and community systems.
After our models of reality, they’re the second aspect of consciousness engineering that allows you to advance your human potential and step into the extraordinary.
But here’s the problem. Most of us are using systems that have long become obsolete. As Bill Jensen said in his book Future Strong: “Even as we enter one of the most disruptive eras in human history, one of the biggest challenges we face is that today’s systems and structures still live on, past their expiration dates. We are locked into twentieth-century approaches that are holding back the next big fundamental shifts in human capacity.”
UPGRADED SYSTEMS FOR AN UPGRADED LIFE
Good software is constantly being updated. It would be ridiculous to still be running Windows 95 when you could be running the latest version. Yet when it comes to our systems for living—our internal software—we run systems that are highly suboptimal.
But what if you start viewing your systems for living in much the same way you view the apps you download on your smartphone? When you swap outdated models of reality for empowering ones and pair them with new systems for applying your new models day to day, your life will improve exponentially—and fast.
I wanted to write in a style that contained practical lessons scattered among fascinating stories that could keep the reader entertained. One of my favorite books of this type was actually Branson’s 1998 autobiography Losing My Virginity. I loved it because of the personal stories peppered with really powerful personal growth lessons. That book became one of the role model books for the kind of book I wanted to write.
However, I was nowhere close to Branson in terms of life accomplishments or life adventures. So I stayed stuck—thinking I’d “someday” write such a book when I could prove myself by getting my business to a gigantic level.
That same night on Necker as we were talking about parenting and I shared with Branson some of my philosophies, he interrupted me and said, “You should write a book.”
I was silent, stunned. That little push from Branson (and he probably doesn’t even remember it) was just the boost of confidence I needed to start seriously thinking about this book.
Still it took me three years to figure out what I wanted to write about.
Then it took me one whole year to get a framework done.
And then it took me three months to write the first chapter.
It was slow and painful.
But each day, I kept optimizing my systems.
I developed a method for coming up with titles, a method for creating a framework, and a style for writing personal stories.
As I fine-tuned these systems, I experienced exponential productivity in my writing abilities. Now, I can write a chapter in a single day.
When you optimize your systems for living, you can experience exponential growth in areas that truly matter to you.