Tribe of Mentors. If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?
“Tribe of Mentors” is a solid book filled with top performers wisdom. While reading the book, I marked the answers that turned out to be most useful at the time of reading. Since “Tribe of Mentors” is a big book, I list in this part answers for the specific question.
The quote I’d put on that billboard belongs to my friend and former Navy SEAL, Richard Machowicz: “Not Dead, Can’t Quit.” A few people said it was borderline child abuse that my parents had me continue wrestling after I lost my first 35 matches. Less than a decade later, [those same people] were saying I was unfairly advantaged. My sisters cried after reading comments about how it would take 20 seconds for me to become the first televised death in MMA. Spoiler alert — didn’t die. Some said I’d get my team killed on Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Aconcagua. I’m willing to bet most of those critics haven’t stood on top of those mountains like my friends and I have. It’s for this reason that I love that quote. It’s my mantra during the toughest moments. Richard lost a battle with cancer this year, but he experienced more in this life than most men could in ten, and he lived this quote until his last breath.
My billboard would say this: “Busy is a decision.” Here’s why: Of the many, many excuses people use to rationalize why they can’t do something, the excuse “I am too busy” is not only the most inauthentic, it is also the laziest. I don’t believe in “too busy.” Like I said, busy is a decision. We do the things we want to do, period. If we say we are too busy, it is shorthand for “not important enough.” It means you would rather be doing something else that you consider more important. That “thing” could be sleep, it could be sex, or it could be watching Game of Thrones. If we use busy as an excuse for not doing something what we are really, really saying is that it’s not a priority.
Simply put: You don’t find the time to do something; you make the time to do things.
We are now living in a society that sees busy as a badge. It has become cultural cachet to use the excuse “I am too busy,” as a reason for not doing anything we don’t feel like doing. The problem is this: if you let yourself off the hook for not doing something for any reason, you won’t ever do it. If you want to do something, you can’t let being busy stand in the way, even if you are busy. Make the time to do the things you want to do and then do them.
“Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.”
Desire is a driver, a motivator. In fact, a sincere and uncompromising desire, placed above everything else, is nearly always fulfilled. But every judgment, every preference, every setback spawns its own desire and soon we drown in them. Each one a problem to be solved, and we suffer until it’s fulfilled.
Happiness, or at least peace, is the sense that nothing is missing in this moment. No desires running amok. It’s okay to have a desire. But pick a big one and pick it carefully. Drop the small ones.
My message would be: “Sugar is toxic.” Sugar and other natural or artificial sweeteners are among the most addictive agents in our environment. When consumed in quantities that exceed the rate of metabolism in muscle or the brain, sugar is converted to fat, resulting in insulin resistance, obesity, and an increased risk of many other diseases, including cancers. While consuming fats and proteins evokes a feeling of satiety, consuming sugars induces a desire for more sugar within an hour or so. We evolved this addiction because, in the not-so-distant past, adding fat to our bodies at the end of a growing season when fruits were ripe was essential for surviving until the next growing season. But today, sugar is available all year round and is one of the cheapest foods available. So we continually add fat to our bodies. We may be approaching a time when sugar is responsible for more early deaths in America than cigarette smoking. I have written and lectured extensively on this subject over the past ten years as our understanding of the biochemical basis for the toxicity of sugar, especially the link to cancer, has become more clear.
“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”
Nothing truly meaningful or lasting has ever been created in a short period of time. If you learn the story behind any great success, you realize how many years went by and how many hard choices were made to achieve it. Reaching for more is not only an act of ambition, it also comes from passion and love. Nothing is achieved because of easy choices. I believe that people can endure any hardship if it is sensible and constructive. Hard choices means never retiring, because the brain has to be engaged in finding new solutions in the moment, not just remembering old formulas. Hard choices make us wiser, smarter, stronger, and wealthier, and easy choices reverse our progress, focusing our energies on comfort or entertainment. In every difficult moment ask yourself, “What is a hard choice and what is an easy choice?” and you will know instantly what is right.
“No one owes you anything.”
We live in a world that’s rampant with entitlement, with many people believing that they deserve to be given more. My parents raised me to be self- sufficient, and impressed upon me that the only person you can really depend on in life is you. If you want something, you work for it. You don’t expect it to be given. If others help you out along the way, that’s fantastic, but it’s not a given. I believe that the key to self-sufficiency is breaking free of the mindset that someone, somewhere, owes you something or will come to your rescue.
“BE HERE NOW” (something I am constantly trying to do, though not always successfully).
Because life is short, and we only have the current moment. Our memories are precious but they are the past, and the future is not here now. As I get older, I am trying to live fully in moments with the people I love and care about. I have spent a lot of years focusing on the next thing, and, in so doing, stressed about things that ultimately don’t matter or bring happiness. I keep trying to sort of “relax” into where I am now, whether it is where I want to be or not.
I’d have it say, “Burnout is not the price you have to pay for success.” And I hope billions truly would see it, since so much of the world is still living under the collective delusion that they have to choose between their own well-being and success. Science tells us the complete opposite — when we prioritize our well-being, our performance goes up across the board. Three- quarters of all startups fail, and entrepreneurship is about making decisions. Nothing impairs the quality of your decisions faster than running on empty.
Simple one for me to answer: “Storms make us stronger.” If I had one message for young people embarking on life, it would be this. Don’t shy away from the hard times. Tackle them head-on, move toward the path less trodden, riddled with obstacles, because most other people run at the first sign of battle. The storms give us a chance to define ourselves, to distinguish ourselves, and we always emerge from them stronger.
The other key is to be kind along the way. Kindness matters so much on that journey of endeavor. It is what separates the good from great.
The billboard would say, “Great opportunities never have ‘great opportunity’ in the subject line.”
Whether you’re looking for the best new job, client, partner, or new business opportunity, it is unlikely to lure you when you first see it. In fact, the best opportunities may not even catch your attention at first. More often than not, great opportunities look unattractive on the surface. What makes an opportunity great is upside. If the potential upside were explicitly clear, the opportunity would have already been taken.
Don’t call yourself a visionary, or aspire to make a disproportionate impact, if you anchor all your decisions with what you see and know now. I am always surprised by how lazy people are when making serious decisions about their careers. Join a team not for what it is, but for what you think youcan help it become. Be a “founder” in the sense that you’re willing to make something rather than just join something.
You must seize opportunities when they present themselves, not when they are convenient or obvious. The only way to cultivate your own luck is to be more flexible (you’ll need to give up something for the right opportunity), humble (timing is out of your control), and gracious (when you see it, seize it!). Life’s greatest opportunities run on their own schedule, not yours.
“Be present.” It’s very hard for almost all of us, and sometimes we need a reminder. The act of being present versus being preoccupied with the past or the future can have a massive impact on our happiness.
“I wake up each day with the firm conviction that I am nowhere near my full potential. ‘Greatness’ is a verb.”
These words came to me one morning in a flash of awareness and insight. I have miles to go before I sleep, and so I will spend my remaining years desperately looking to improve who I am from year to year. Greatness is not a final destination, but a series of small acts done daily in order to constantly rejuvenate and refresh our skills in a daily effort to become a better version of ourselves.
My billboard would say “STOP LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE,” both as a message to others and a reminder for me.
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