Three People

Three Amigos. Three Ghosts. Father Son and Holy Spirit. Rule of three. Everything comes in threes, even when it comes to your own personal development.

The MMA trainer Frank Shamrock has a system he trains fighters in that he calls plus, minus and equal. He believes that every great fighter needs three people in order to become great:

“Each fighter, to become great, he said, needs to have someone better that they can learn from, someone lessor who they can teach and someone equal that they can challenge themselves against.”

The better fighter teaches you the ropes, and helps you find new techniques and strategies. The equal challenges you and pushes you to be your best, and the lessor enables you to demonstrate what you’ve learned and help someone else.

Three people. More than three is great, but that’s all you need to start.

So, who is in your plus, minus, and equal?

The Average Paradox

The world’s most successful people tend to do things differently. Take any great artist/athlete/performer/entrepreneur and you’ll quickly see that they followed a different path than most of their peers which enabled them to achieve success and be unique.

Many of us want to be successful, to stand out and be above average. However, But being successful and standing out isn’t always easy, it means having the courage to do what you think is right even when it’s different than what almost everyone else is doing. Conformity brings comfort, which also is important. I came across a nice article that illustrated this point:

“We instinctively think we are above average. We don’t want to be average. Yet ironically, we want to be normal and have the same interests as most people do. We don’t want to be different and stand out. Having the same interests, routines, habits as everyone else ensures that we stay in the majority and are hence part of the ‘in-group’. But by design, we are setting up ourselves to be average.”

This describes what I like to call the average paradox. On one hand, our drive and focus on success means being exceptional and thus not just another average person. We want to succeed, do well and even stand out amongst the crowd.

 

However, we still want to be normal, and, have similar routines, and held to similar standards, which by definition, is average.

I have experienced this paradox myself. As a consultant, my job had a lot of ambiguity, even to the point where sometimes on a Friday I didn’t know where I needed to be the following Monday. In those moments, it’s easy for me to get stressed and think to myself, “if I only had a normal job..” The reality of that statement is that if I only had a normal job, I wouldn’t have gotten to do many of the things I really enjoyed about the job that I had!

There’s nothing wrong with being average. There’s also nothing wrong with striving for excellence. The only way around the average paradox is to pursue the things that are most important to our vision and values and acknowledge and accept the tradeoffs and opportunity costs that we must incur in pursuit of those values.

Being different is not always easy, but with patience and persistence, we can focus our efforts on becoming the person we want to be.
 

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Thinking and Doing

As career-oriented young professional, I go through periods when I get anxious and nervous about my career. Despite having a good job, stable income, and positive future prospects, my mind races through a series of questions and doubts. These questions tend to keep me up at night, as the thought of not having answers can be stressful. These questions include:

  • Will I become successful in pursuing my goals?
  • Am I actually good at what I do, or did I just get lucky?
  • What if my success runs out?

 

As an analytical and thoughtful person, I tend to mull over this more than I should.

While the mulling over those questions is not always fun, I often come to realizations and insights as a result of thinking through some of those questions. Furthermore, I’ve learned enough about myself to know that I can’t keep things locked inside my head, and during those times I often reach out to others to get their thoughts and perspectives on what I’m thinking about. Generally speaking, I usually feel better about where I am after I go through one of those cycles.

This cycle has ups and downs, but illustrates what I think is an important dichotomy: the balance of thinking and doing.

Thinking means taking the time to reflect and honestly ask yourself tough questions, and to pursue truthfulness and authenticity in finding the answers to those questions. This process helps you become more self-aware, spots trends and reoccurring themes, and helps you make sense of where you are and where you want to go. It can shift you to a course you want to take, and at the very least, reaffirms that you are moving in the right direction. Thinking helps us remove the tunnel vision we often get when we focus too much on doing.

Doing is critical because it takes your thoughts and turns them into tangible actions. It takes the theoretical and turns it into the practical, and gets you to make action-oriented steps towards a particular goal. Doing is also where gain experience, make mistakes, and develop muscle memory, which builds not only our abilities, but also our confidence in those abilities. Doing breaks those times when we get too caught up in our thoughts, and helps us take our ideas about where we want to go and makes them a reality.

Here’s my three-step process for Thinking and Doing:

  • First, you need to practice both thinking and doing. Since most of us are “doing” things every day, start asking yourself honest questions about what you are doing, and make an effort to search for those answers.
  • The second step, once you’ve started to identify when you are thinking, and when you are doing, is to know when it’s appropriate to think, and when it’s time to do. Look for triggers in both aspects – when are you starting to feel anxious or restless after thinking about something? When do you begin to lose sight of the goal you are actually working towards? Finding these triggers or moments will help you understand when you need to hit the pause button and move in the other direction
  • The last step is understanding the right balance of thinking versus doing. Is it 50-50? Is it 60-40? I believe it’s different for everyone, but in general, I do believe that actions speak louder than words, so I tend to err more on the side of doing than thinking. Figuring out what works best for you should be your goal.

Practicing and using the thinking versus doing framework will improve your self-awareness and help you understand the how and why behind what you do every day.

At times, it will be uncomfortable, and it may even take you down a path that you did not envision, but I believe it will help improve your self-awareness, define what it is you really want to be doing, and pursue taking actions that are aligned with what you want. You may even be able to answer those questions that keep you up at night.