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Ryan Holiday ON: How To AVOID BEING MISERABLE For The Rest of Your Life | Jay Shetty | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Ryan Holiday ON: How To AVOID BEING MISERABLE For The Rest of Your Life | Jay Shetty".
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If success is this lagging indicator of commitment now, how can you be sure that you are paying your dues? - The best selling author and host. - The number one health and wellness podcast. - One purpose with Jay Shetty. - Society has gone in the direction of becoming addicted to pleasure. - Yes. - Or pleasure seeking. Where, from the stoic perspective, why did we even ever go down that road? Like why did we leave wisdom in self-control or did we never have it at all and we've always been trying to balance it? - Yeah, I mean, I guess that's the big question is like, why do we take something that we like too far? - Yeah. - Right? So the Epicureans would say like, "Look, drinking is great, "but if you have a hangover the next day, "was it actually so great?" And so, if you push the pleasure too far, it becomes not pleasurable. But in the moment, that feels very far away, right? Like in the moment you want the thing now, obviously sex is this thing for people. It's like the thing you're attracted to in this moment, you're not thinking about the shame or the regret or the consequences or the pain or the loss or the grief. You're not thinking of all those things you're just thinking of right now. So I think a big part of this, this where the wisdom comes, the ability to step back and go, what am I gonna think about this after I get it? What am I gonna think about this later? And realizing that your mind is very good at tricking you. Just as your mind often tells you like, "Stop, you're too tired, you can't go any further." You actually have a lot less left in the tank. Your mind also tells you, "You need this thing, you won't regret it, "it's a mate, whatever." And it's really good at putting those blinders on. And so part of, I think any meditative practice, any philosophical practice, any journaling practice is being able to argue with yourself a little bit, to step back and have that conversation about, "Well, is what I think about this true "is the story I'm telling myself about this true." I think nowhere is this more important than for ambitious people who have told themselves, "I will be happy when I accomplish X." Like if all the things we need to be most disciplined about ambition is one of them, 'cause it tells you this lie that after I become a New York Times reseller, after I make a million dollars, after I get a gold medal, then I'll be good, the parents will be proud of me, I'll be happy, then I can relax. And you have to have the perspective, the wisdom to go, "Was that ever been true ever "in my life before? "Is that ever been true in history?" And then go, "Oh, okay, no, I can't tell myself that lie." That doesn't mean you don't work really hard to do stuff, but you're not doing it under the false pretenses that it's going to be conditional to your happiness. - Yeah, but there's a part of us that, and I love what you're saying, but there's a part of us that always believes that we are the exception. - That we will know how to spend money better, that we'll know how to have love in our life better. Like, we won't be the one who fumbles off the edge of a cliff. Like, we're smarter than all our friends, even if we don't say that. We're wiser than the people who came before us. And that's the ego, is the enemy. But of course, that idea, I think, is what misleads us so much. - Yes, yeah. It's like, okay, you're on the medal stand, you've just won the gold medal, and you're not feeling happy for yourself. You're thinking, "Well, "I could've done it faster." You're thinking, "Oh, I gotta do it again." Even in that moment, you're not able to think, "I'm doing it to myself right now, "what I will be doing to myself in the future." And that's this sort of insidious thing. And you can understand, like from an evolutionary perspective, it drives the species forward. You can also see the immense personal cost that it inflicts on us, 'cause it never allows us to be present or content or happy with what we have in that moment. And so I think, again, people think discipline is the, I always push myself to do better, do more. Discipline can also be curbing that very impulse, right? Like, I'm ordinary people when we're talking about discipline. What we're talking about is getting off your butt, working out, resisting eating candy and needing nutritious food instead. It's managing your screen time. But I think for a lot of more disciplined people, or for people who have tasted the rewards of discipline, you have to learn how to be disciplined about discipline, which is maybe the highest level of the whole thing. - Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Understanding And Practicing Discipline
What is the real meaning of discipline in different cultures? (04:25)
Now we're, I guess now we've started talking about discipline as a tool to achieve daily or weekly, monthly, early tasks. But you're actually saying that we need to go back a bit? Like, how would you unpack that for how you're defining discipline there? - Well, it's like, what's the number one cause of injury for athletes? It's over-training, right? So like, yeah, you're ordinary person. It's like, you're not training enough. You're not working hard enough. - Yeah. - But then at a more elite level, at a more accomplished level, actually the trouble is, hey, the race isn't for six weeks. Like, do you wanna peak now, or do you wanna peak at the right moment, right? - Right. - Or this is just a practice session. You don't have to go all out. Or it's a long season, or you prepared for that. And so discipline has to be balanced with sustainability, with rest, relaxation, recuperation, recovery, all these other things. And that requires kind of a spiritual discipline not just, hey, I can run an hour without getting tired, but like, can I stop myself from doing that? That's not what I should be doing in this moment. - Yeah. And what I like about that is that I feel there's different phases and stages. Like, in the first two years of my career where we would have met in New York, and we went on a walk once as well, I think. And we were walking around the city, and I remember talking about a few of these themes, but it was, at that time in my life, I was working probably 18 hour days. - Sure. - Because I had to, in order to kind of break through that first level. I was still disciplined in the sense that I would make time to eat to some degree, and meditate, and I would make some time to do a few things of rest. But generally I was working seven days a week, 18 hours a day. And I'm very grateful I did that. I don't look back and go, oh, I wasted two years. It was brilliant. But then in the last couple of years, I've taken my evenings back. And so I don't work after 6 p.m. It's just a rule, I don't wanna work. I don't wanna be on the phone. And I was talking to a friend, and it's exactly what you said. He was saying to me, he was just like, well, don't you get less done? And I was like, no, I get more done. - Sure. - Because I know how much I have to get done. I'm far more attentive and focused. And then I'm not working at 9 p.m. when I can rest and recuperate. And now the next day I'm better for it.
How do you overpower your own mind and learn to argue with yourself? (06:40)
And so I hear that idea that that is also a discipline. All they could be seen as you're being lazy in the evening. - And I think it's the question, well, is it easy for you to do that? Yes or no? - Right? - It's actually harder for you, I imagine, to say I'm stopping at 6. Then it is to say, I'm gonna work all night till I fall asleep at my desk. Right? - Yeah, I could do that. Yeah, if my wife's not around, I could work every weekend and evening. - And also, it's realizing that you have multiple things that you're trying to do simultaneously. So yeah, sure, continuing to work 18 hour days may help you continue to advance in your career. But if one of the other things you're trying to work on is to stay married or to period, have a happy marriage or if children or you have your health or whatever, like you tell me before we recorded that, like you got in at 3 a.m. last night. Let's say you're a person who always wakes up very early. Like I'm a person who wakes up early. - Yes, and-- - But then I also have to understand that sleep is a discipline. And so if some changes outside my control mean that I didn't go to bed to a certain time, the fact that I wake up at five, that's bad idea. And it actually requires, you wouldn't think that sleep discipline would be a thing, but in the military, they talk about that sleep discipline. You gotta get your hours because you make bad decisions when you're not rested and other people bear the consequences of those decisions. And so, deciding, hey, I'm going to skip this thing that feels comfortable to me to do, that feels natural for me to do, that I feel like I'm letting some part of myself down by not doing, I actually have to be the bigger, more self-controlled person and say, in this moment, I'm not going to do that, right? And I think at the end of the day, self-discipline is the ability to have an emotion and instinct of feeling to do a thing and then to catch yourself and go, is that actually the right thing to do, yes or no? And sometimes it is. Sometimes it's, hey, it's cold outside and it's 5 a.m. and it's still dark and I don't want to get up. But I have to get up because I've made these commitments. I'm behind, blah, blah, blah. And other times it is to stay in bed, right? Just like, sometimes you feel that surge of temper coming on and you have to go, no, that's not a good, like it's always the ability to step back, put the emotion, the instinct, the opinion to the test. And I think you learn this in meditation. I think you learn this for stoicism and the journaling of going like, here's the thing and I can choose it or not. I can choose to identify it or not. It is not me. The stoics have this word ascent, right? Not like a sent up a mountain, but A-S-S-E-N-T. Do you assent to the feeling or not? Do you agree to it, rubber stamp it, approve it, go along with it or not? - Do you subscribe, yeah? - Yeah, that's what discipline is about. What do you assent to and what do you not assent to? - Yeah, I wanna go over to Tangia, I wanna come back to that 'cause I actually really like that point but a few words ago, there was something that you sparked from me. Sometimes I feel like with work, it's doable, sometimes with even our partner or with friends, it's possible to say no, to be disciplined. I find like, and I wanna ask you this from your perspective, what about a sense of dad guilt? Like we talk a lot about mom guilt and, you know, if it was speaking to mom, I'd ask about mom guilt in this scenario, but from a dad guilt point of view, you're a dad, and I see you wanting to be a good dad and you're very involved with your kids, but at the same time, you're a writer and you're in a bookstore and you're doing activists, like there's so many things that you do. Do you ever feel like that's like the hardest place where discipline because it's like, even if a dad comes home at 3 a.m. And the kid wants him at 4 a.m. Like does the dad stay up? Like what does the dad do? How does he work? - Well, it's so insidious, what we do is we go like, I'm doing this for my family, right? And it's like, are you or are you doing it for you? Are you doing it for the money? How can you be doing it for your family if you don't see those people as a result of what you're doing? Someone told me many years ago, they said, love is spelled T-I-M-E. And I think about that all the time. I mean, obviously I always have things that take me away more than I would like them to be. And I suppose I could do nothing, but that would also leave me unfulfilled, that would not be me setting the example I want to set for my kids. But at the end of the day, realizing that everything I said yes to also means saying no to someone or something else. And in some ways I try to use that dad go a little constructively.
Discipline has to be balanced with sustainability, rest, and so much more. (11:05)
I try to go, okay, this person's asking me to do this thing, and this person's offering me money to do this thing. This is some cool opportunity they want me to go hella skiing in British Columbia or something. And I go, I don't want to say no to this cool opportunity, I don't want to miss this memory, I don't want to hurt this person's feelings. Then I go, but I am hurting a person's feelings. I am saying no to a memory. Like I am taking something away from someone. And that person is a five-year-old, and they're going to feel it far more deeply. Someone else will take my spot on that plane to British Columbia. No one will spend that time with my kids. And so I try to use that guilt constructively in the sense that I'm reminding myself always that saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else, and that conversely saying no means saying yes, right? And then I always, as much as I can, I want to be saying yes to the things that actually matter to me. And I want to be putting my money where my mouth is. It's like, if someone looked at your calendar, you say you put your family first, you say family's important, blah, blah, blah. But then if I looked at your calendar, what would it show? If there was a custody hearing, or if you were being investigated, if you were being audited, what would the receipts show? Do you actually value them? Do you put them first? And it should be pretty obvious, whether that's true or not. Yeah, no, I have an exercise in think like a monk where I ask people to do their time audit for the week. And it's literally that where it's like, and it's against your values, because someone's values may be different. But the idea that your bank statement and your schedule show your values more than what you say. Yes. Right? The words that come out of our mouth are not actually our values. There are aspirations. Those are the values you wish you had. But the values that actually go, what do you spend your money on and what do you spend your time on? Like, that's far more what your real values are. Yeah, I think about that. I saw this interview with Jimmy Carter many years ago, and he has this sort of crisis of faith. And he goes, like, if I was put on trial for being a Christian, would I be convicted? Right? So it's not what you say, not what you think, not what you wish, but like, what do the action show? And I think about that with Mark Sirelius, who I write a lot about the stoic emperor, like he never identifies explicitly as a stoic. And one of his translators says, you know, he never even says the word stoicism like in his writings. But he's considered this philosopher emperor, and he probably still would have been, even if his writings had never survived, because the deeds are there. There's a Latin expression, act a non-verbal, like deeds, not words. And so you have to always think, not what do I write about? What do I think about? What do I want to be true? But what did the action show? And no one is perfect. And I think anyone auditing themselves is going to be, there's going to be some disappointments. But you want like the big statements of priority to be there and to go back to the idea of guilt. When you're looking at it, you shouldn't like whip yourself and feel, but you should be like, okay, this is not the painting, the picture that I want to paint. And that you're lucky enough in that moment to catch it now, not when you're 80, you know, not under death, but you're, you've caught it now. And so what changes are you going to make? - Yeah. - To get closer between the ideal and the reality. - Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And something that's interesting that's coming out from me here is that pretty much everything we do every day can be defined by thinking, feeling, and doing. But I think we're living at a time where we're stuck in the feeling generation. So we do things because we want to feel a certain way, but then when we feel things, we don't know what to do with it. So I'll give an example of what I mean by that. If you, if we feel guilt, most of us don't know how to shift from that feeling into thinking and doing something different in order to not feel that guilt again. - Yes. - And if we want to feel happy, we just try and feel happy, not realizing that you have to change your thoughts and what you do in order to feel happiness or whatever it may be. What I'm trying to get at there is like, that to me sounds like a discipline too. Like, but we've gone so into feeling because I think for so long, thinking and doing what the only things talked about, and we didn't feel enough. - I think realizing that almost all the things you want in life are accidental byproducts of habits, processes, systems, routines, right? So Viktor Frankl famously said that happiness can't be pursued, it must ensue. It's the result of getting those big things right. And then you just feel this kind of feeling of happiness as a byproduct. You don't, as you said, you don't go, today I must feel happy, right? It's the result of having meaning and purpose and taking the right actions. And so people sometimes look at the books that I've written and they're like, "What, like, "how did you publish so many books?" And it's like publishing is not what I think about. I think about writing. I wake up every day and write, and the accidental byproduct of that is the publishing, right?
If you look at your life calendar, whom are you spending most of your time with? (16:22)
And so good habits, good routines, like, "You want to have your home life?" It's like, "Are you spending more time there?" You know, how are you setting up systems or processes that the result is that outcome, right? You control what you put in, that the outcome happens or it doesn't happen. And I think so often we just, you're right, we just want the feeling. So we try to cheat it or steal it or we feel guilty that we don't have it. When really you could start small right now and just get yourself closer to it. - What do you think is the best discipline you've built? Like, over time, like, is it writing? Obviously that would be the obvious one, but is there another one that you think underpins that success rate? Is there a discipline you've worked on the longest? - Well, I feel writing is such a sedentary, sort of intellectual cerebral thing that I try to balance it out with like a physical practice. So I try to do something hard every single day. Running, swimming, biking, I do a walk once a day. Like, I do something hard every day. And part of what that is is transferable back to the practice, right? 'Cause again, it comes down to the, you don't wanna do it, it's hard, it's not going the way you want it, but you've cultivated the muscle of being able to push through that. Like, there's lots of claims about the health benefits of cold plunges. And they may or may not exist, that's not why I do it, right? The muscle for me is the cranking of the knob, of the looking at the cold plunge at my house and going, it is gonna be unpleasant to get in there. But I have the ability to force myself to do that. That's the muscle that you wanna cultivate. And I think, people wanna be the person on the other side of that, but they don't realize that the way you do it is by just starting it, just starting it. - Yeah, it's so true. I can relate to so much of that in my own life. And when you're saying that, it's, I feel like today, most of what I do, I'd say I spend a lot, I'd spend like 75% of my life outside of my comfort zone. I am constantly doing things that demand more from me than I believe I'm skilled and able to accomplish. - Yeah, yeah. - And in a healthy way, in a good sense, because I feel challenged. And I feel that challenge forces me to grow my skills, which then meet a new challenge, and then that keeps growing. But then I find myself in my personal life, often resorting to comfort, because I need to kind of cushion the amount of like, pressure and stress. And so it's like this, for me, I'm at that place in my life where I'm like, okay, I'm pushing so much. I need my personal life to be super like, Christian to some degree. - It is interesting, right? We will take, and Seneca points us out in one of his letters, we'll push ourselves, we'll take risks to succeed financially, to succeed in business, to succeed in our careers, to buttress our reputations. But then we don't wanna do it in the other places where most of us would admit it actually matters, right? My favorite passages in meditation, Mark Suryos, is like a better wrestler, but not a better forgiver of faults, a better friend in tight places. He's pointing out how we'll go like, yeah, I'm trying to, like, you'll talk to someone that have this well laid out plan for how they're trying to increase their back squat, or their mile time, or how they're trying to, they've got these aggressive goals for their stock price, or how many copies they wanna sell this thing, or they have, we have really clear financial and professional goals. And then in our personal life, we just wing it. - Yeah, yeah, yeah, I didn't mean that, but I don't even, yeah, I got that point. - And I think the point is, like, you have to be challenging yourself in your personal life, also getting vulnerable, getting outside your comfort zone, having the conversations that, like, I think it's because our professional stuff is so much more quantifiable, and then there's, other people are looking at it, whereas the other stuff is private, and so we just, we hold ourselves to different standards, and you think about what that costs us in terms of, a place you get to in your marriage in 10 years, that had you thought more consciously about, or put one tenth of the focus on, maybe you could've got there in one year, and then had nine years of enjoying it. - Yeah, no, that, I fully agree with it, and maybe I didn't clarify. When I said comfort, I mean, more, apart from my sleep scare, I have so many routines that are already set up, that I try and make my personal life more comfortable, as my individual life of my own self-care, because I find I'm pushing myself in so many areas, but I love where you took it to, because I think that's the critical one, right? It's like, what you're kind of leaning towards is, most people will become people they don't want to be, in order to achieve something, and that external pursuit often does that. By the end of building a billion dollar company, or whatever it may be, you end up going, "Well, I don't even like the person I am anymore, "or I've lost the person who I thought I was." Whereas the pursuit of doing it inwardly, with your family, with your friendships, the openness that's required, chances are you'll become the person you wanna be. Like, chances are you'll become someone that you're proud of being, and I think that's such, I wanna dive into that. That is such a powerful way of looking at it. And you're saying it's because it's the quantifiability, which I think there's truth in. I also think it's the, it's harder. - I've tried, way harder. - It's harder, because like you're saying, there's no external reward, there's no number that proves you did it, and it's fluctuating way more, because people's emotions, like anyone in your family and friends, you can't control it. You can control a master in algorithm, or the stock market is some degree, but with a person, you can't do any of that, because you can't set something up, and then be like, "You're gonna stay this way."
All the things we want in life are accidental byproducts of getting big things right. (22:05)
- Well, it's like you get so used to the control and the power that you have from the mastery of your professional domain, right? Like when I sit down to write, "I'm in control, I'm comfortable." This is a place that I have carved out for myself. When I'm arguing with my wife, or I am dealing with a three-year-old who's having a meltdown, I'm not in control, and I'm humbled by it, and I'm struggling with it, and I don't feel like I've got it, 'cause I have so much less, I've literally never done that before, and I'll have such a short window where I'll ever have to do it, right? It's not like, "Oh, I've been in this place in a book 12 times, right? Like, I've only had one five-year-old." And so, it's just so much more challenging. It's just a much more multi-dimensional, you know, n of one, like, difficult thing, and so it's gonna demand more of you. And I think it's like, look, optimizing your professional life, or maximizing your professional life, very unlikely to improve your personal life. But if you have optimized and maximized and improved your personal life, and you've gotten your house in order, you're gonna be better at what you do. You're gonna care less, in some degrees, about things that used to bother you so much.
What is the hardest discipline you’ve ever practiced? (23:38)
And so, which one are you gonna focus on, right? 'Cause you can be a titan in your industry, and then be a total amateur at home, right? And I think, go where it's easy. - And that's the thing I think discipline often gets applied to the titan in the industry, not the amateur at home. - Yeah. - And that's how we think about discipline. We think about discipline is what can I achieve through this? - Yeah. - In an external sense. - Yeah, and at least today, that's the language. - And you can get away with so much more. If you're really talented, you know, you can be a jerk, right? You can demand a lot of people, 'cause you're paying these people, right? Like, I'm not saying you should, I'm just saying that there's accommodations that are made for you, and sort of insidiously, the more successful you are, the more needed you are, the more accommodations you are. There's none of that in the other area. And so you have to, there's some humility required, right? You're meeting equals on an equal playing field, and the discipline to say, yeah, I'm gonna wrestle with that. I'm gonna try to get better. I'm not gonna allow myself to do these following bad habits. That takes a certain amount of self-control and focus and discipline. - Yeah, I guess one of the biggest challenges with discipline is that we're trying to destroy a habit that we hate. Like, there's this idea that it just has to break and go, right? If you have a habit that you don't like about yourself, whatever that may be, it's like, you're just, well, I released iPhone when I'm coaching clients and working with people, is that they have this, like, bitter feeling towards this thing that they have. - Yeah. - And they want it to go at all costs, but that almost makes you hold onto it harder. Like, that makes you grip onto it. - Sure. - And wrestle with it more. And I remember when I lived in India, a lot of the time, the analogy that was given, or the metaphor that was given to meditate on, because we'd see all the time, was like, snake skin. And the idea was that when snakes shed their skin, they just slither out. They don't, it doesn't, like, they don't, one day, just go, well, they don't even have, - Not like the Hulk. - Yeah, they're not like the Hulk, where it's like, like, snakes just slither out, and then their skin gets left behind, and then it, you know, they'll grow more. And so the idea that it's, it's such a natural, organic process of if you just slither, if you just move forward, you naturally shed. - Yeah, I wanna hear your thoughts. - That's the beauty of process, right? You don't sit down and go, I have to do this right now. What do I have to do today? What are the small steps? And you get great by minor improvements, compounded on top of each other day in and day out, showing up day in and day out. And that's the same, hey, we were fighting like crazy six months ago, and now things are awesome. Why is that? They made a change, and you made a change, and you made a response, and it changed in response to their change, and it compounded, and now you're here. That work can fall away at any moment, you have to rebuild it, but I think, you know, the Buddhists talk about will, full will. Like, almost the more intentional you are about, that's the irony, too, is we're talking about how, you know, being intentional in your professional life often pays off. Being intentional, having clear expectations, wants, desires in your personal life is harder, because it depends on other people. People who are not like you, people who do not sign up for that. And I think one of the things you learn having kids, and then also being married, is that, like, a sense in that same sense of, like, acquiescing to things, adjusting to things. Like, I'm a routine person. Kids don't care about your routine, they fall asleep when they fell asleep. And you have to adjust, like, you're no longer the center of the universe. And that is such an important thing that you have to figure out and adjust and accommodate towards, you're the master of the universe here, but that you leave that behind when you walk through the front door. Yeah, absolutely. I was talking to Ama from Yes Theory. I don't know if you know the guys at Yes Theory. Yeah, they're awesome, and we've had them on the show before, but I was talking to Ama the other day, and they just released their project, Iceman, I think their documentary, first time, like, their featured documentary. But he was talking about this, and he was saying that when they built Yes Theory, the goal was, like, how can we say Yes to Things we would usually say No to, right? Like, that was the obvious point. And now he's learned that it's equally important to say No, but the part that really hit me when he was explaining it, I think we both vibe with the idea. He was saying that, and it's something you said earlier, he said, "I have to start saying Yes to the Things I find hardest." And so he was saying that today, no matter how many marathons he's done, no matter how many crazy expeditions they've gone on, no matter how many countries they survive with no money, he said the hardest thing for him to do is sit with his thoughts for 15 minutes. Yeah. Like, he was like, "That's the hardest thing." He goes, "I don't look forward to doing that." He said, "If someone told me to train for something," he goes, "I look forward to that." But if someone told me to sit down with my thoughts for 15 minutes, he goes, "I don't look forward to it." So that's what I'm doing. And he was saying, "That's why he's trying to build that." And he was like, "That's his new definition of seeking discomfort." Because he said, when people come up to him and say, "Do you want to build a million dollar company, a billion dollar company?" He's like, "I can get excited about that." But he goes, "I don't get excited about it." Is that a good sense of people finding what discipline is for them, or how do you see that? I think restraint is the hardest thing, right? Blaze Pascal in the 1500s said, "All of humanity's problems stem from our inability to sit quietly in a room alone." It was hard 500 years ago.
Optimizing your personal life will make other things much easier to manage. (29:21)
It's harder now when you have a cell phone in your pocket, when you could get on a flight and travel anywhere you want in the world. And there's unlimited distractions, opportunities, things to get excited about. Like, it's hard to hold the mind still, to be physically still, or maybe not to be physically still, but have the mind still while the body is in motion. This requires so much discipline, so much self-control, so much self-awareness, right? Even to understand that it's hard for you, that it's something that you are naturally averse to or avoid, is a step in that journey to getting better at it. Because a lot of people are just doing, doing, doing, and they're not even aware they're running away from something, they're not even aware that it makes them uncomfortable to be still. So I think we have to understand it's this journey, and hopefully as you go, you get more and more comfortable, because at the end of the day, that's the one constant in life. Wherever you go, there you are, as the expression goes, like, you're there. And if you can't get comfortable with that, can't get in touch with that, you can't see what's there. And you're gonna wake up one day and realize, I did all of this stuff to get away from something that's been inside me the whole time. And that's very, very sad. That is, that's, yeah, that's, well, that's the inconvenient truth of it, right? Like, that's the hard part that you chased pleasure for so long, that you completely missed what was already there. But I think, is it that we don't, what is your take from studying, you're like, is it that we don't know the benefits enough? Is it that we don't like processes enough? It is, is it that we're just addicted and there isn't? Because I look at, and I do think looking at very daily habit changes is the easiest way to build the muscle to go, I can do this. So, I always give the example of, when I met my wife, I was addicted to sugar. Like, I genuinely was, and I didn't even know it. I had a Sprite and a chocolate bar every day without thinking about it. It's how I got through college, it was life. When I was a monk, I didn't have either of those things. But that was more of a suppression, and there was lots of other interesting things to do, or I didn't need that kind of energy when I came back. I don't like the conduct was sober in prison. Yeah, I do. Just because you don't have access to it. Exactly, I didn't have access to it. And I didn't, I definitely built a discipline where I didn't feel like I needed it, but then when I came back to the real world, all I wanted was chocolate and sugar. And so, when I met my wife, it's like, you know, we've been married for six years now, together for 10. And she like, at first, she would just educate me. And like, she would just tell, because she's a dietitian and nutritionist, this is her job. She's laying out all the dangers of sugar. Then she's like, taking it out of the, like, home. Like, it's not around anymore, it's not accessible. And then almost like, it's taken six years, and I would say now I'm at a place where the habit is really transformed. That's like a six year journey. And obviously it probably happened like halfway through, I'd say, like probably happened three years ago, where I really started cutting out sugar. But it needed a coach, my wife was the coach. It needed a obedient or submissive student. I trust my wife on this area. It wasn't like, I didn't have an ego about it. She knows more than me about the body. And then on top of that, it needed a focus in the sense that in my health, we kind of did it one at a time without even trying, whereas like we took our sugar first, we started working out next. Like she was, she kind of did that even unconsciously. It just took so much. And I go, and I know obviously with the Stoics, we talk about mentoring and coaching, and there's always this cross learning. But I feel like now we're all trying to do it on our own. We are, and we're also expecting that it just happens. And it's just like epiphany. If knowing what to do was enough, everyone would be in great shape. No one would have any of these illnesses or problems that we have. It's so much more complicated than that. And I do try to remind people that it's a journey that you're on your whole life. There's passages in meditations where Mark's to realize is going, you're an old man, and you're still losing your temper. You're still worried about what other people think. He's like, you're still afraid of death, and it's almost here. And realizing that if the wisest people in the world struggled their whole life with this thing, the idea that you, who were lucky enough to hear about it in your 20s or 30s or 40s, that you're just gonna get it, it's naive, and it's also unfair to yourself. The question is, are you getting better at it as you go? Seneca says, how do I know I'm making progress? And my philosophy says, I've begun to become a better friend to myself. So discipline is not just squeezing blood from the stone, it's not just whipping yourself, it's hiring a coach, it's setting reachable goals as you go. It's stepping back and giving yourself credit and saying, how far we've come, man, like we're doing great, right? It's not just this sort of like in your face, how are you not there yetness, right? It's a journey and you're not supposed to really ever get there. It's like the horizon, it's always a little bit further away. And so, I think when we hear discipline, I think we think of like the Marine drill sergeant. This is kind of transformative, you didn't have discipline and now you do. We should also think about it like having a discipline, it is a thing you do your whole life and realizing that that's how we should measure this progress. I think though that that's what we're banging our head against is that the mind has been so far removed from the idea that things take time, that patience is required that one step at a time. Like we hear those things all the time, but there's literally nothing we do in our lives that requires us to move one step at a time anymore. Like it just doesn't work. And we know these examples like whether you're ordering food to your house or whether you're getting this delivered or whether you jump into an Uber or Lyft, we know that. But I found it really interesting recently, like I just went through double hernia surgery and it's not life threatening and it's meant to be routine, but it's far worse than the doctors make it out to be. And the journey back to feeling like I can operate normally, it's been two months now and I'd say I'm 75% there. I would say that the first four weeks were like learning how to walk again. And I have never, ever moved that slow in life in a good way as in that every movement of the body or the mind had to be slow because if I moved fast, I could potentially relapse. So I couldn't, I still can't pick anything above like 15 pounds of not allowed. I couldn't for that first month like walk for the first week and then I had to shimmy for the rest of it.
It’s never too easy to sit down with your thoughts but you can learn to get comfortable with it. (36:25)
And I had to like, when I sat down on a chair, I had to be so mindful. I was like, wow, I thought I was mindful. And having this surgery has made me the most mindful person ever. I've never eaten that slow because the digestion was harder and there was pain in this area. And so it was the first time in a long time I felt that present and I consider myself to be a present person. - I think that the root of it is this illusion we had that we're in control, right? That we're deciding how things go. And then we have an injury or a problem or something that disrupts it. And we are rudely but also kindly reminded how little control we have. I remember I moved across the country, I was writing my first book, the two days before I was supposed to start riding my bike, New Orleans, I get stuck in the street car tracks, I go over the handlebars and I break my left elbow and I'm left handed. And so like all of the way that I was thinking about writing this book goes out the window for like six weeks. I couldn't get like a adrenaline or the endorphins that I needed just to function as a person. I had to go on these long walks. So I get the news and it's like, okay, I'm not gonna be able to work or think for like six weeks. This is a total dead loss for me. But then I started taking these walks like hour or two or three hour walks just around. And what do you know? I start writing the book in my head on these walks. If I had gotten things the way I wanted them to go, it would have been far less advantageous to me than me having to respond to the way they did end up going. So at the core of stoicism is this idea that we don't control what happens, we control how we respond to what happens. It seems like it's this curse, this human frailty or weakness that like, we're not in control. But our superpowers, our ability to respond to that, to find good in it, to be made better for it. And you go through this thing and you realize, oh, this is an opportunity to practice all of the things that I ordinarily take for granted, I assume I have. There's this one Japanese Zen master, actually the Zen master from Zen in the art of archery. And he's at the end of life, he's dying. And he goes to urinate in the snow and it's red. He's like bleeding, he's dying and the students are alarmed. He goes, this too is practice. All of these things that we experienced, that we didn't want or we thought they should go a different way, they're actually the opportunity to practice the way, but the logos as the stokes would call it in the way it's actually meant to do. If we choose to be present, recognize it and take that opportunity instead of finding it or resenting it or wishing it were otherwise. - Even I love that point that you mentioned that, even that was practice. That is beautiful. Like that's magical, like that idea that even in that worst scenario at the end of all of it was still practice. And if we could only wrap our hand around that because I think we still think of practice and performing, practice and arrival, practice in the end, we still see it as separate. And there is nothing that separate. Like that tree outside that's huge is still growing and being nourished. It's just you don't see it anymore. And I almost, sometimes what I do with clients is I'll give everyone a seed and I'll ask them to plant it and take care of it. And that's like an old way of just learning growth because it's so painful to be watering something every day and not seeing it grow only to realize it is growing. Or I remember something they gave us in the monastery was like they gave us this rope. It was like this really old rope. And it was already tied and we were asked to untie it. And it's like most of us spent the whole the first day we got it trying to untie it and failing. Only by like day 21 to realize all we had to do is pull it a little bit every day and hopefully it would unravel because it was so tight.
Are you getting better at becoming a better friend to yourself? (40:22)
And so even if you sat there all day, you would just, you'd go mental and you wouldn't achieve anything else. - Right. Yeah. It's what's the willful will, right? It's like wanting it a certain way, needing it a certain way, trying to force it as opposed to stepping back and letting it be what it is. It's like the way our mind works, whatever is happening now, you will look back on sometime in the future as formative to who you become, right? And yet in this moment, all we're doing is trying to make it something other than it is, right? Like we will look back on COVID and see the good in it, the lessons that came from it, the reminders it gave us, the weird experiences we had, the connections, all of that, we'll look at that. But in that moment, all we're thinking about is when this will be over. Who's fault it is, what it's cost us, right? Freud says, in retrospect, the struggle will strike you as most beautiful. But it's such a shame, so unnecessary to deprive yourself of understanding the beauty of it now. Certainly perspective adds to it, it allows you to see it differently. But what if you could just not feel guilty, worried, anxious, resentful, like you know in the future, this will be a story, right? You'll learn, but you could give yourself the gift of at least some of that now by accepting it and just seeing it as what it is in front of you, that it's practice. - Yeah, yeah. And the challenge I guess is that because we've not had an experience, maybe in our early childhood or in our teens, where we saw that, where it was like, we went through difficulty, we built discipline, and we got over it, or we learned from it as you're saying, I find that a lot of people have experienced difficulty, but then they were given comfort or shelter, or the difficulty was somehow removed or left. So you never got the opportunity to build the discipline muscle, if that makes sense. My wife loved to talk about like, for her, if she went through a difficulty, like her parents would come and save the day, right? Someone would swoop in and solve the issue. Her sister would do her homework for her. And so as that happened more and more and more, it created this behavior of someone who saved the day, that I don't need to build a discipline around this. - Obviously saving is coming from a good place. The other thing we do is we tell, it's so bad that that happened to you. I'm so sorry you're this victim, right? Like the first year of COVID, they would describe it for kids that this was like a lost year. And I just remember thinking like how-- - That language, yeah. - Patronizing, but also self-fulfilling that was for kids. Like when I would talk to my grandparents or old people that lived through the Depression or the Second World War, which were by the way, a lot longer than COVID, they weren't like, oh, it was a lost time. It was a transformative, formative experience that in retrospect made them who they were that maybe even if you'd asked them if they would have wanted things to be different, they would have said no. And we have the power to transform whatever we're going through into that thing. So yeah, by rescuing someone, you're depriving them of that thing, but also by telling them that there's nothing in this thing that it's indisputably, inarguably bad, is to deprive them of the agency, the perspective, the gift that they have in front of them if they choose to see it that way. And we should emerge from this period, the very least as he said, like if you haven't been through stuff like this before, you just lived through an event of historic proportions. Like you just lived through event that your kids and your grandchildren, future generations will marvel at and you emerged unscathed, maybe even improved in some ways. Like you should emerge from this with a real sense of what you're capable of enduring and surviving and adjusting towards.
We can’t control what happens, but we can control how we respond to it. (44:14)
And that should give you a lot of confidence as you wake up and you experience things that are so microscopic compared to that thing. Right? And you should feel armed with a certain set of weapons or tools that maybe you didn't have before. Like you've been knocked around and you didn't get knocked down. That's powerful. - Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And in my own little way, it's like while I was going through my surgery, it was exactly that, where it was like, I can either sit here and think this is the worst because it did feel like the worst. For someone who's active, always on planes and always traveling, always working, to be completely off and it wasn't even restful because it was painful. Like it wasn't restful time. Everyone's like, we didn't work for a month. It must have been amazing. I was like, well, no, I was in pain. But the idea that my mind at the time was like, this is the worst. I hate this and when's it gonna be over? Right? Which is the same as COVID. Which is the same as anything. Like those are the three thoughts that go through. I had pretty much, whether it's surgery covered or anything else that's going on and having to reframe those thoughts in the moment made it become a really beautiful process at the time and now a sense of gratitude for it having moved on. But that's what I'm hearing from you. It's like you will reflect, well, hopefully you'll reflect afterwards. But there is a bit of reconfiguration that has to happen at the time. - Yeah, there's a story about Phil Jackson when he's a coach of the Lakers. He gets this back surgeries, super bad back surgery and he can't stand on the sideline. He has to sit in a chair and the way they had him sit, it's like a row back. And so suddenly all the things that he's comfortable with as a coach are not possible. He's not able to pace the sidelines, get up in people's faces, intervene, direct people. He just has to sit back and just to watch. It's like the antithesis of his coaching style. And yet, and he's a sort of a Zen Buddhist 'cause he realized that this is practice. He realizes that now the team's having to come to him and the team's having to solve some of the problems. He's having to explore a different way of communicating. He's having to communicate verbally better than physically. It's a way to change a just. He's forced to do it differently and thus learns some things he wants to continue doing differently, now realizes he was taking for granted certain things that are actually super important. And so you can always take from this, like it's this forced lifestyle experiment. Just see it as that, right? Like COVID, the biggest forced lifestyle experiment in human history, things that people said were impossible, had to become possible, remote work, e-commerce, all these things. And then you wanna throw that away by saying, "I can't wait for things to go back to normal." It's like normal is what caused this, right? Normal was you before you learned the things that you learned in that intervening time. And for COVID, for Phil Jackson's back surgery, insert whatever disruptive event you're undergoing in your life. - Yeah. - You don't want things to go back to how they were, you want them to go to a new place where you have the old perspective and the new perspective fused into something new. When Mark's real assist, the impediment to action, advances action, it stands in the way it becomes away. The Zen expression is the obstacle is the path. Same East-West coming to the same idea. It's like, this thing has opportunities inside it to make you better should you choose to accept them. - Yeah. And that's what I like. It's not the simplistic idea of, and I'm always trying to address this, it's not the simplistic idea of look for the positive and the negative, right? Like that's not what we're saying here. This isn't the idea of like, "Oh, there's a beautiful side to this." That's not the point. Let's get into that a bit because I feel like people kind of simplify and go, "Oh no, that just, yeah, we'll just look "for the silver lining," which is not what we're saying. - Would you know the Stockdale paradox? - No, tell me. James Stockdale, he studies stoic philosophy, and then he shot down over Vietnam. And he's taken prisoners in seven years, horribly tortured in this Vietnamese prison camp.
How important is it for us to go through something difficult and grow the muscle to overcome it? (48:25)
Afterwards, he's speaking to Jim Collins, who writes good to great. And he formulates what becomes known as the Stockdale paradox. Jim Collins says, "Who has the worst trouble "in the prison camp?" And Stockdale says, "Oh, that's easy, the optimists." Right, the people who thought, "I'm gonna be out by Christmas. "I'm gonna be out by the spring. "This isn't gonna be hard." When Stockdale's parachuting into this camp, he says, "I am leaving the world of technology "and entering the world of Epictetus." He says, "It's gonna be seven years at least." But he said, he said, "The first step is I had to "unflinchingly accept the reality of my situation, "which is that I might not get out, "which is that I'm probably gonna be tortured, "which is that I'm not in control, "which is that there's so much unknown pain "and suffering ahead. "I have to accept that. "This is not gonna be fun. "This is not gonna be easy." He says, "But simultaneously, I said to myself, "if I get out, I want to have transformed this "into something that in retrospect, "I would not have traded away." That's the paradox of what we're talking about. Stuff happens, life gets in the way. You lose someone, your company goes bankrupt, the market shifts, a natural disaster. Your life can get flipped upside down at a moment's notice. You have to unflinchingly accept the reality of that situation, the unfairness, the unexpectedness of it, your blamelessness, or your blameworthiness for it. And then simultaneously go, "Okay, I'm not saying "this is wonderful that I'm glad it happened, "but I can make choices now "that derive positive benefits from this, "that make me better for having gone through this." I was at the beginning of the pandemic in the middle of opening this bookstore. It sent my life savings into opening this bookstore that by the time it was ready, it was impossible to open. It was looking like this enormous failure mistake, like albatross around my neck. And I wrote this note card to myself, and I have a picture of it 'cause I took, I wrote it to myself, I was thinking about it every day, and I took the picture in front of the bookstore. And I just wrote to myself, I said, "2020 is a test. "What makes you a better person or a worse one?" I have no idea whether the bookstore will work, I have no idea where things are going, I have no idea what life is going to look like. What I control inside that is, do I emerge from it a better person? More community-minded, a better spouse, a better thinker, a better writer, more patient, more self-aware. Those are the things I control within it. And so when we say the obstacle is the way we're not like, "Oh, it's great, this terrible thing happened to me," but you're saying, "What I took from this terrible thing," or maybe you're trying to strip the labels altogether, but you're saying, "What I took from this was positive "I made from it." That's the paradoxical-- - Yeah, yeah, that's a great break. I'm so glad you went into that because yeah, I've heard the example in the same way of when there were soldiers who said, "We'll be home by Christmas." Their hope was shattered because they weren't home by Christmas. And whereas the people who said, "We'll figure out a way to get home, "and if we get home, we'll see our family "and that person was more likely to be able to deal "with the fact that it didn't happen by this time." And I think that's become our obsession with controlling time is partly where that comes from, where it's like we want this done by this time. And then whether it's positive or difficult, when it doesn't happen, we're completely demoralized, right? It's almost like it's all over, just because it didn't happen by an arbitrary date. - We're setting yourself up for disappointment or frustration or resentment or despair by attaching to an outcome that's not yours. If you get lucky, sure you'll feel wonderful. But if you work for years on a book and success or failure of it was, did it win awards, did it sell lots of copies, did your parents read it? Those are things that are not in your control. But if it was, I understand that it's better than when I started, I am more confident than I was when I started. I said something, I got on the page what I thought only in my head at the beginning, right? When you move the outcome or the goal to something that's up to you, you'll always win. And I think that's what wise people do. It's not that they're not ambitious, they aren't ambitious, but their ambition is things that are up to them. And so when Marcus is saying, better wrestler as opposed to better philosopher, better friend, whatever, he's shifting from like this external, societal driven thing to this internal thing that he controls, that he gets to judge the success or failure on. And it's not so quantifiable either. It's something deeper, more human, more connected. And so as you shift that, not only do I actually think you do better work, but you are increasing your chances of feeling good about yourself at the end of that. Yeah. And I think the challenge right in though is that today we want both, right? We want the feeling of I did something that was true to me and it resonated with a lot of people or whatever that means, right?
Ryan explains the importance of making choices that derive positive benefits in the most difficult situations. (53:52)
Like, and I feel like that's where everyone kind of gets stuck because it's like, you know, especially when people watch people do what they love and it gets received well, it's like, oh, well, I want to do that too. Where do you think people go wrong in that journey? Because like, what are the mistakes we make on that path? Because I feel like that's pretty much where people are headed. Well, yeah, I mean, I think we're sometimes not honest. You're like, I'm just, I want this album to be true to who I want to be, my artistic expression, blah, blah, blah. That's why you made all these sort of individualistic decisions. But deep down, you have this sort of secret lie, which is that you're actually judging yourself on where it lands on the billboard charts, right? So that's the worst of both, right? 'Cause you're not going, well, what do I need to do to be commercially successful? And I'm consistently judging myself on whether it was commercially successful or not. You set yourself up for maximum disappointment. But if you can say, look, here, my goal is to do my absolute best. My goal here is to get to the truth of what I'm saying, to express my, what's true inside here. And that's what I'm going to focus on, and I'm not going to waste any time on these other things. I actually do think, I'm sure you found this, is that that does make better work. It makes true work, it makes more authentic work, more relatable work. It actually does make a better product. But only if you are fully and honestly and deeply committed to doing it. It can't be like, I'm making the charitable donation, I'm doing it anonymously. But I still hope everyone sees how wonderful I am. You know what I mean? You can't have your cake and eat it too. Yes, exactly. And I think it goes back to what you were saying a few moments ago where it's like, you have to accept the reality, which includes your own intention. Like, I know that I like creating things that are true to me, but are commercially successful. That is important to me, is a value of mine, and I'm okay with that. Because I don't want to lie about those things to myself at all, because I enjoy the idea of creating thoughts and ideas that can affect lots of people. Like, that is something that gives me a sense of feeling that I've understood an idea and been able to communicate it well enough. I guess what I'm saying is that it comes back to what you were saying at the beginning that I don't set out to write a commercially successful book or learn something commercially. Like, that isn't what I use set out to do. Set out to understand, articulate, communicate with myself and write an incredible book. And then that leads to that. But at some part of that process, you have to think about the sharing of it. - Yeah, of course. And I've learned a lot from you in this regard. Like, you're not helping yourself or your ideas by rejecting what makes them accessible or shareable or turning your nose up at this tool or that tool. Like, look, like, when I want to learn about an idea, I want to read long-form books about them. That's the medium that I'm comfortable in. I don't think TikTok. But millions of people do think TikTok or Instagram. And to turn your nose up or close your heart off to those people because they're not like you is not just snobbish, but if you actually care about the ideas, it's selfish. And so I don't think they're mutually exclusive. But I also think if you're on those platforms and you're letting the algorithm decide what you do and don't do, - Correct. - You are sacrificing the whole reason you became a creator in the first place. - Correct, absolutely. And I think that's the balance, right? It's like, there's people who just completely sell out for the algorithm. And then there's the selfish creator or the snobbish creator on the other end who thinks they're too cool. - Yeah. - Like, it's kind of like this badge of honor, it's like, oh yeah, I don't need to do that. Like, I don't care about it. And I'm like, that defeats the whole point because I'm hoping this book was a compassionate expression of service, hopefully. And maybe it wasn't, maybe it just wasn't selfish, arrogant move of professing your ideas and that's like the best thing about it. And so you have sellouts on one end, you have selfish on the other end. And to me, like service is kind of in the middle where it's like service means I understand people's needs and interests and concerns and where they're at. But I always have to serve them what's most beneficial. - What's if you meet people where they are? - Yeah. - And like, there's almost a greed to it. It's like, well, I wrote in a book, if you want to hear it, you can buy it. Right? Well, what if they're not ready for that? What if they're too busy for that? What if they already did buy it? But they just need a reminder of it, right? And so there's different, just in the way that like, look, I also read in English. That's the only language that I speak. But I don't turn up my nose at all these different translations, I go, oh yeah, there's a process. These ideas get translated in those languages and they reach people who otherwise wouldn't have consumed it. And understanding that different people have different native languages. Some people like audiobooks, some people like podcasts, some people like this social network or that social network. And that by thinking that one is superior to the other, in fact, you should be translating your work in all these different areas, long form, short form, audio, video, text, what you should be everywhere that's possible. And understanding that the win is that the ideas are reaching people and helping them in their life. If some of those things translate to sales or followers, they're like, oh, great. But I always think about like, again, what is success? At the end of the day, if you think sold zero copies but it changed the world, you'd be like, that was a win. So why don't you just do the stuff that changes the world and trust, again, trust the process that you'll probably be able to make a living. - Absolutely, absolutely. And most things that do change the world or have an impact started non-commercial, right? Like in that sense of especially creation or ideas, I mean, maybe not businesses, but ideas, like when I started creating content, even the first few interviews I did with you, like I mean, that whole, that whole, I never got paid for that whole series. I was interviewing authors every week because I was fascinated by the idea that I get to sit down with people that I find interesting. - You're also putting in your hours, you're getting good at this thing. - Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. - Exactly, and you're getting good at it, you're enjoying it, you get to meet awesome people. And even when we did the show at HuffPost, it was like, I was leading the show of what kind of show we wanted it to be. It wasn't like, it was already set up. And so, yeah, I look back and I think like all stuff that had an impact and grew was always from that deep intention, pure intention of, I wanna create something that will hopefully help people have these conversations. And that was what it was for me. I felt when I started creating content, there were so many people who had deep, thoughtful conversations offline, but there was no spaces online really to have those.
Perspective On Expectations And Personal Growth
You are bound to get disappointed by attaching to an outcome that is not yours. (01:00:40)
Well, there wasn't a piece of content you'd send to your friend and be like, "Did you see this? "Have we talked about this?" And I wanted to create an excuse for people to have more meaningful, thoughtful conversations based on ideas. - I mean, look, I think at the end of the day, it's like you create a lot of value, and if you can capture a small percentage of it, you're good, right? Like I think about Craigslist, like the vast majority of stuff on Craigslist has been free since the very beginning. It Craigslist still makes a billion dollars a year in revenue. Like when you create a lot of value, I create so much content. And like the only part that is not free are the books, right? And the books fund that work, and then that work also funds the books. You're creating kind of a flywheel of stuff. I was thinking about one of my books that hasn't sold as well as the other books. - Which one is it? - Lives of the Stoics is different than my other books, but I personally used, and then also have reused stuff that I learned while writing that book almost every single day. So like the monetization, you know, to use that word, the value creation there was a personal one. And the book is done extremely well by like any standard, but like the primary beneficiary was me. - Yes. - And again, if you, whatever you're doing, you can say, look, the primary beneficiary of this is me having gone through it, changing, developing, learning, and then the by-product is that I paid my rent or that like, you know, this happened, then you've won and all the stuff that's out of your control is the extra. - Yes. - That's where you wanna be. - Yeah, yeah, I can agree more. And that requires just so much. I think that requires refining of the intention. It requires having a sense of belief and confidence. I think, I think for me as the other, and for you too, from your journey that we've talked about before, like I spent 10 years doing this without any followers or without any commercial added to it anyway, because it was all offline. And it was speaking to rooms of five to 10 people if they showed up.
Different people have different ways of consuming information and we should respect that. (01:02:41)
And so it was like, for so long I was doing it without any care of how far it went, because it was just so powerful. It was so beautiful to live in that world of, even if I had one meaningful conversation with someone after an event, that would make my day. Like I'd talk about it for weeks. - Let me ask you this, I've been thinking about it lately. The work that you're doing now, or that I'm doing now, is the result of work you did a long time ago. It's a lagging indicator of sacrifice and commitment and study and practice from however long ago. Sometimes what keeps me up at night and as I go, but 10 years from now, 15 years from now, am I putting in the work doing this stuff now that will pay off then? And how do you know? How do you know if success is this lagging indicator or growth is this lagging indicator of commitment now? How can you be sure that you are paying your dues? - Yes, I'm so glad you said that, because I literally just, I've been talking to my team about a few things that we're doing. I've literally asked us to find three new coaches. Like I've literally gone, I've always learned through one-to-one coaching or mentorship. Like that's my favorite, apart from books, that is my favorite way of learning. And especially when it comes to self-transformation. So I love ideas through books, but when it comes to me actually changing, I'm better when I'm working with one person and getting mentorship or coaching. - So you're thinking about who are your teachers to get you to the next level level? You might not even know exists yet. - Correct. And so I'm trying to identify those people right now. So when I was a teen, I was reading Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Steve Jobs, right? Like well, Steve Jobs was a bit later actually, but Martin Luther King Malcolm X, like that's who I was reading at 16 years old. They were hugely formative in my ideology in so many ways. And then in my 20s, obviously I lived with the monks. So that was hugely that. And then when a public speaking school, when I was 11 years old, so that has lasted far too long and needs to be refined again. And so yeah, I completely agree with you. I look at all the skills I have today and I go, where do they need to be refined? And then I look at what are the things I'm missing out on because I'm not exposing myself. Now I do think that I do find having the podcast very fortunate because I do get to sit down with a lot of people that I seek mentorship from in an informal sense. And then I can be like, oh, I'm really going to do a deep dab on that person's book or like Gabon Matei was just on. He's amazing. And people have known about him for a long, long time. This was the first time I interviewed him, but I'm like now doing a backwards reading of all of his books. - Sure. - And so I love that. - Yeah, yeah, it's like what rabbit holes are you falling down, what sort of new, it's like a great athlete. It's like, what am I adding to my game this offseason? - Totally. - Like how do you not get complacent and coast? 'Cause you could be coasting for a long time and not realize that your skills or your speed is slowly decreasing before it. And then it's too late. - Yeah, that's such a good point. And I think the thing that hit me there, what you just said is just, it's also what skills do I need that I'm not trying to see the results now? What is something I'm happy to let kind of simmer and build and just organically grow rather than like, I'm gonna learn this skill because next week we're gonna launch this thing. Like that's not what I'm talking about. - Well, all the things you were talking about that made you who you were, those were never means to an end because the end was inconceivable, right? - Right. - None of it didn't even exist. - Absolutely. - But somehow it was the perfect like training montage for who you became and how do you make sure the montage is continuing as opposed to this once in a formative thing. And then, you know, everyone's in a while I'll do a talk and like, it's the person before me. Like, oh, you've been doing this a long time the exact same way and you stopped. You stopped and you don't want that. - Yeah, exactly. And I think partly that's also me allowing my, at least for me and I'm only talking about myself, but I think this is helpful for people. I think you have to allow yourself to become different things and giving yourself permission to follow that bliss as Joseph Campbell would say because, right, for example, when I wrote "Think Like a Monk" that was the kind of end and beginning of a new journey in my life. Like, I was kind of encapsulating what I've learned over the last 15 years. And then it was like, well, now I'm in a new space. Like, I'm a married man now, I'm a business person, I'm a, I'm so many more things. And so it was almost like me saying, okay, well, I'm gonna put this rapper on this right now. And now my next book's all about love. And there's loads of people going to be like, why are you worrying about love? Like, why? And I was like, because I'm fascinated by love. Like, and I'm okay with answering that question of why love, I don't want to continue to write books. I mean, by the way, the love book is full of wisdom I learned during my time as a monk. Of course it is, but the point is that I don't wanna be defined by that. And I don't wanna limit myself to any human experience because then I'm basically saying I have to be this and that's what performers do. I have to play this character for the rest of my life. And then you get typecast in your own life. And you don't let yourself, and I'm like, maybe my next book will definitely not be about love. I know that for a fact my next book's not about love, but I'm okay with that. Like, I like the idea of, I'm letting myself go in the direction of whatever I wanna become, because why would I limit it now? - When we talked about, like, cranking the shower handle that that's a muscle, right? My first book was about marketing. - Yeah. - I could have sold my next book about marketing, my next book about marketing. I could be still doing that. I could still be speaking about that first book. And when I went to my publisher and I was like, you know, I wanna write about this obscure school of ancient philosophy. They were like, what? You know, they were like, how's half sound? You know, they gave me half what I got for my first book. But that's that muscle. I was like, I don't care. This is what I wanna do. And so when you cultivate the ability to do that hard thing, the challenge and thing, the different thing, the investing in, like, being bad at something, to get good at something, to think about Tiger Woods, he's changed his swing three or four times from the ground up. That's the real muscle that prevents you from sort of ossifying or declining. It's the ability to go like, just 'cause I'm here doesn't mean I'm gonna stay here. I wanna try and do something radically new or different that I hope will work commercially, but I know personally I will emerge better, right? Like, let's say the book doesn't work. I'm sure it will. Let's say it doesn't work. But you're like, hey, my marriage is better as having done it. It's a win from top to bottom, right? And then, you know, you take that with you as you go. - For me writing it, I wrote a completely different book than the one I thought I was gonna write. And I wrote it three times. And the first time it was too raw and probably too, like, it was probably too tough a read. And the second time it was too shallow. Like, it was totally like not what I would wanna do.
When you create a lot of valuable things in life, the returns may double. (01:09:44)
And then the third time we got the balance, right? It's funny what you said about earlier. Like, the discipline of trying to get out of doing things wrong, but the discipline of ambition. Once you've had one success in anything, most people grip onto it because now you've had a taste of it. And now you're scared that if you don't be that person, you will lose it. And I just wouldn't wanna live that way because then you are just acting and not being. - It's like what you think that having the success and proving yourself should make you more courageous, less risk averse. 'Cause now you've done it. But in fact, the opposite is true, right? This is where courage and discipline are related. It's the opposite. Now you have something to lose. Now you don't wanna change, go in a different direction because the expectation is set with the first one. So you imagine how scary this Tiger Woods, you're like, you're the best swinging golf. And you're like, but I think it could be better, but I'm gonna have to go have a bad swing for months to get to the other side of that. And so the ability to say, I decide whether I'm successful or not, not the external results. And that's why I'm willing to go down this detour, try things differently, do this. That is that sort of key skill, encourage and discipline have to be related. They complement each other. And yeah, like it was come from my first book, came out, it debuted on the bestseller list, it was controversial. But if who I would be today, if I continued down that road, would be a caricature of that first person, 'cause I would have been a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. Instead I went towards something that was interesting to me, which opened up another thing that was interested in. And that like, I wouldn't be who I am had I done the safe thing. And so they say all growth is a leap in the dark, right? You have to continually take that leap. And one of the things I hope you learn when you do that is first off it's not as scary as you thought. But then sometimes like it doesn't work. And you go, oh, but I feel great about it. And then it decouples external recognition from the internal process. And then you go, yeah, I just do what I want. I do where it takes me. And a lot of times it works out, sometimes it doesn't, but it's called being a creator for a reason. You're making something, you're the leader, you're not a follower.
Why should you allow yourself to become different things? (01:12:05)
- Well said, Ryan, this has been so much fun. - The best I've ever been here with you. - We were talking for ages. I had no idea where the time went. But it's been such a joy just always like just getting into with you. And I hope that everyone who's been listening, hope you go and grab a copy of Discipline is Destiny, the power of self-control by Ryan Holiday. And of course, any of the other books that we've recommended before on the show. If you love this episode, you can go back and listen to a ton of other episodes with Ryan. And again, I hope today's episode I tried not to do for everyone who's listening. And I've been trying this more recently. I tried not to do a systematic conversation of breaking down how to build discipline. And which, I've been avoiding that kind of hack, kind of conversation recently, which I think you've been really resonating with. Because I think sometimes the penny that needs to drop isn't the how to. It's kind of like the churning of the idea in your own self of coming closer to what it truly means for you and making sense of it. So that's been my attempt at least. And I hope that's coming through. I hope you enjoyed this. Please do give me feedback on on Twitter, Instagram, Tag Ryan and I both with your greatest insights, the nuggets of wisdom. And we'll see you on another episode of On Purpose. Thank you everyone. If you love this episode, you will enjoy my interview with Dr. Daniel Aemon on how to change your life by changing your brain. - Everything in moderation, which is the gateway thought to hell, it's the gateway thought to cheated. As soon as you hear someone say, everything in moderation, they're going to do something bad for their brain.
Continual Self Improvement
Don’t be a copy of your former self, continue to take a leap whenever you can. (01:17:16)