For many people, after the curveballs, chopping and changing and rapid-fire pivoting of the previous couple of years, 2022 felt like the year life went “back to normal”. Attending networking events, seeing friends, family and colleagues interstate, even rummaging around for the old passport and jetting off abroad all became real options for us once again…
Yet despite the world opening up (so to speak) I didn’t travel a great deal. Apart from the very beginning of the year when I returned home from spending the Christmas break overseas, I didn’t venture too far. A day-trip here, a bike ride there, otherwise until those few days leading up to Christmas) there were no ‘getaways’ for me, no real time off.
However, for the past decade I’ve kept a journal, and my aim in 2022 was to write more consistently. I recorded the mundane play-by-plays as well as journeying down memory lane, revisiting past events from years- even decades- ago to identify the roots of ideas that had existed ever since. So in 2022, my biggest journey was an internal one…
As you may already know, at the start of each week I try thinking of at least one thing I learned (or maybe rediscovered) over the previous 7 days. I make a note of it, then save it for reflection at a later date. At the start of each year, I go back over the previous 12 months and pick one key ‘Aha!’ moment from each month and expand on my thinking behind it: what made it a stand-out revelation or realisation? I’ve been doing this a few years now and if this is your first time, you can catch up on the previous articles I’ve written here
So here is the year that was 2022, starting with January:
Without a vision for their future, people will want to return to their past- what was familiar and comfortable, even if they were not quite the person they are now. Instead, we should always be dreaming, declaring and moving into the future.
Like myself, I’m sure there have been certain periods in your life where (for one reason or another) it felt like you were lingering in some kind of liminal space. No real challenges you were faced with, yet nothing especially great either- not compared to days past at least. As a result, you started dwelling on how things used to be- the old scene, the old crowd, the old ______. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but at least you still had a,b and c in your life. This is a common trap we fall into when there’s no clear vision for our future, no goal we’re actively working towards. Spending so much time gazing into the rear-vision mirror is often a sign that we’re not paying enough attention to the road ahead, which can take us to a better place- better even than “the good old days”.
Doing the work is important, but that work needs to be directed towards an ideal vision, with that ideal vision being consistently focused upon.
Work for work’s sake is a waste of time. Doesn’t matter how intently you do it or for how long. Work done with a greater purpose that directly connects to an ideal vision? This is the kind of work we find more energy for. Work done consistently, when it relates to that ideal vision, is never energy or time wasted.
Holding onto most things too tightly is a bad approach because not only does it cause more stress, but it can also make our efforts at improvement counter-productive. As long as we put in our best effort and consistently apply these efforts to the things that really matter for us, we learn what we need to learn along the way- and also find the people to help with our goals. But more on this in a moment…
Trying too hard is the antithesis of being able to do/ attract on instinct.
This one follows on from March’s entry, and it focuses on the same idea: when we hold onto something too tightly, when we make too much of a conscious effort, we risk over-thinking and (as a result) over-doing it. The best approach is doing the best we know how, at ease, and trusting that we are astute enough to notice what’s relevant and make adjustments based on that. This, in turn, helps us perform the desired action on autopilot, with our subconscious managing the task at hand. This also leads us to…
The sweet spot= where you push just hard enough, without overdoing it.
Sometimes easier said than done, finding your sweet-spot in a given activity is when you’re paying that activity enough respect and conscious effort as it deserves, but resist the urge to make an extra-conscious effort on its’ behalf. Work like this and you wind up burned out, in a kind of a daze. Train like this at the gym and you risk pulling a muscle or doing long-term damage to the body you’re trying to build. When you’re giving the task just enough effort and attention, you tap into what is called ‘flow’. You’re at your peak, and the results manifest.
This one I credit to Ash Roy, who mentioned this on a podcast I was listening to. It’s well established that we are creatures of habit- habits that either serve or hinder us, when done consistently. So you want to engage in more of those serving habits than the hindering ones, right? Achieving this outcome is much easier when we make it as easy as possible to follow the positive habits, while putting obstacles in the way of following the negative ones. Make doing the good things a smooth process, and then we can take the path of least resistance, knowing that this is helping us towards manifesting the outcomes we really want.
Obedience is more important than sacrifice
Ultimately doing the right things, following the process and doing this consistently, takes us further than making sacrifices along the way. For example, sacrificing our time here and there for an educational cause is definitely a positive, but in the long-term it’s following those good habits (see previous) day after day, doing what we know is productive and doing it constantly, that makes the biggest difference.
This is yet another perspective I got on the 80/20 principle (otherwise known as Pareto’s Law). Devoting most of the focus to ourselves, getting stronger, more knowledgeable and finding that wholeness means that we’re better equipped to manage the business side of things, which in turn increases the load we can carry and our capacity to manage the fortune and abundance of opportunities when they inevitably come.
It turns out that March’s entry applies to money as well- you’ve got to loosen that grip to enjoy the flow…
You can learn something from everyone, even the unlikely people.
This is one I picked up from Goju-Kai training. There have been fellow students and instructors over the years who (for one reason or another) I didn’t think much of. Not that I thought they were poor students- just that I disagreed with their attitude or their approach for some reason:
They’re taking it so seriously- don’t they realise how ridiculous they look?
This guy is so boring to listen to- how can you remember anything noteworthy with his monotone?
But then I’d have a sparring session with such people and there was something they’d point out about a stance or technique I was doing, a recommended shift, and it would make a big difference to how effective I was. Who’d have guessed, after all this time training, that I’d receive such an insight from that person?
It made me think about people outside the dojo. I know, even in business circles, I’ve received unlikely lessons from all kinds of people over the years. Maybe we can learn something of value from everyone after all? Speaking of martial arts training…
You might have seen the 1984 classic ‘The Karate Kid‘ or you might not have. In case you hadn’t, here’s a quick run-down:
Daniel La Russo wants to learn karate to stand up to the bullies at his new high school, and Mr Miyagi (the maintenance man in Daniel’s apartment and Okinawa Karate expert) agrees to teach him- on the condition Daniel does exactly as he instructs. Over the next few days, Daniel’s training involves…waxing Miyagi’s old cars. Sanding the wooden floors of Miyagi’s house. Painting the fences and the wooden planks, dusk to dawn…
…Until one evening where Daniel loses his patience. He accuses Miyagi of using him like a slave without teaching him a thing about karate. Miyagi responds:
Not everything is as it seems.
Daniel calls bullshit and tells Miyagi he’s going home, storming off. But Miyagi orders him back with one simple request:
Show me: sand the floor…
Daniel hesitates at first, but Miyagi insists…
So Daniel repeats the same motions of sanding the floor, hands gyrating in circular patterns. Then Miyagi tells him to do the motion for waxing on/ off. Then the motion for painting the fence.
Miyagi asks Daniel to repeat wax on, wax off. And suddenly-
Miyagi yells and tries to strike Daniel with full force. But Daniel’s motion of waxing on/ off blocks it.
Show me: paint the fence…
Daniel simulates painting the fence, which again deflects the strikes of a yelling Miyagi.
Show me: sand the floor…
You can guess what happens next. And in that moment, we see the look on Daniel’s face as he realises:
He’d been learning the core techniques of karate all along, yet completely unaware. He was ready to fight back- and his preparation had come in the form of menial labour. He was ready- and only now did he realise it…
Likewise, there might be ‘menial’ things we are doing right now or stuff we’re devoting time and energy to that isn’t really in line with our bigger goals. Yet- the things are, in fact, teaching us the lessons we need in order to be “the best around” and master the key aspects of that big vision when the time comes. Which brings us to December…
Relax and just fly the plane
One evening I was scrolling through the 90’s movies category on Netflix and found the 1996 action blockbuster ‘Executive Decision‘. Having not seen it since I was fresh out of high school, I cued it up as I made dinner. The movie begins with U.S Intelligence expert David Grant (played by Kurt Russell) at the controls of a small aircraft, under the watchful eye of a flying instructor. The instructor tells Grant he’s ready to fly solo- “more than ready”, but Grant is not convinced. The instructor tells him to “relax and fly the plane”.
As events follow, Grant is requested to join an elite military team who covertly board a hijacked commercial flight, headed to Washington DC from Athens. Relying on his expertise, Grant helps identify the terrorist kingpin and locate the lethal bomb they’re planning to detonate upon landing. But time is running out, and the person responsible for activating the bomb still needs to be identified amongst the passengers. The commandos have no option but to come out of hiding and storm the cabin, a shoot-out ensures and (just before succumbing to his wounds) the terrorist king-pin shoots both the pilot and co-pilot dead. The plane nose-dives. Grant stumbles to the cockpit and relies on air hostess Jean (played by Halle Berry) to read the flight manual to direct him. Now Grant is at the controls of something much bigger- a Boeing 747 full of passengers- and he has to land it safely. He’s going through the procedures and second guessing himself out loud as they descend upon DC, and Jean says “Relax and just fly the plane!”
There are times when a situation feels hectic for any number of reasons- we’re pressed for time, for resources, for an outcome- and the temptation is to over-think as a result of the pressure (real or imagined). Yet, the best course of action is to stick with doing what we know best, tune out to the needless distractions and just focus on the basics- for that is what’s going to see us through. This (again) is “flow”. This is how we relax and just fly the plane.
So, 2022 brought no profound revelations while walking a moonlit Thai beach, no once-in-a-lifetime expedition through the Amazonian rainforest, not even following the grey nomad tour of Australia punctuated with a whole lot of “Hey- that’s interesting” moments.
Instead, everything took place much closer to home. But that’s the thing about great discoveries- sometimes they are much closer than you might think…
Like this article? Get every new piece the moment it drops- just enter your details AND get your complimentary copy of ‘The 3 Posts People Stop Everything To Read’: