Hacking the Most
The last thing, "Hacking the Most." The third thing, that you can train to be gritty; to increase grit, you want to control your thoughts, you want to be more perseverant. You also have to learn how to train to be at your best, when you're at your worst. It's a different kind of grit. Or to be at your best when it matters most. This is a different kind of grit: it may sound like the same thing; it's actually a different thing and you have to train it a different way. Four ways I've found to train, being your best when it matters most, or being your best when you're at your worst. First of all, you want to train your weaknesses. If you don't know what your weaknesses are, ask your friends. Ask your friends where you blind spots are, where your weaknesses are. Ask like three or four people; don't trust any one person, but if you're hearing the same thing from a couple of people, it's a weak spot, right? You have to be training them on a daily basis, you really do, there's no way around i...
t. The other thing is you need to get physical. I believe there is no way to be a successful creative over time without being physically active. If you're just running around as a head on a stick, there's a lot of different cognitive reasons why this isn't going to work; we'll talk about those in a minute. But it is just not possible. And one of the main reasons it is impossible is you cannot train to be at your best when you're at your worst, or when you need it most, without pushing yourself physically. We tend to privilege physical activity more, from a cognitive level. So even though, interestingly, like fear for example, financial fear and physical fear are processed by the same brain structures. They're treated in the brain as the exact same thing, but physical fear still feels scarier to a lot of us, right? That's based on the fact that we're physical creatures; we're in our bodies and risking our bodies really scares us. So I've found that the easiest way train yourself to be at your best when you're at your worst, is if you work out, instead of doing 10 reps, add an 11th rep when you're exhausted. So, I'll give you a couple of examples of things I do along these lines. One of the things I do is, as an action sport athlete, the secret to action sports is can you keep your balance under conditions of extreme exhaustion? If you can keep your balance under conditions of extreme exhaustion, you can survive as an action sport athlete without going to the hospital too frequently. You're still going to go; it's going to happen, but not too frequently, says the guy who broke 82 bones. But what I tend to do is for example, when I'm at the end of my workout, I end my workout with a bunch of high speed jump-roping sets and then I get on a balance board and I put like two songs on my iPod, and I don't allow myself, if I touch the ground I have to start over. So I practice balancing under conditions of exhaustion. Yes I'm training balance and it's prepping me for action sports, but I'm really training my mind to perform under really difficult conditions. So when I practice speeches, when I practiced this class, I write it; I do it a couple of times out loud in my office. I'll then usually call a friend and do it in front of them, and then I will go out and hike my dogs up a mountain, and do the speech then. So I figure, if I'm hiking up a mountain and I can actually remember the speech, I can do it under any conditions. So, I finished Stealing Fire this year. And Stealing Fire was a hard book, and I worked myself to the point of not only exhaustion but I was very, very, very ill. I had burned out my stomach lining, which, I didn't know it could happen, but it can happen: you can burn out your stomach lining. And let's just say, things came out of all sides of me, for a very long time. I ended up losing like 22 pounds. I couldn't control my bowel movements; I was puking all the time; and I had a lot of public speaking to do in this period. A very important speech happened to be on technology, but a week before the speech, five days before the speech, after it's all ready, I get a call from the company and they start kind of going through everything they do at their company and I realize that all the stuff I was planning on talking about, all the whiz-bang technology that I was going to talk about, they all do; that's what they do on a daily basis. So I had to throw my entire speech out and start over. And rewrote the speech and learned it again, and practiced it running up and down the mountains. And I got there, and as it turns out, my stomach was not doing very well, and let's just ... It was unpleasant, shall we say? On top of the fact that it was unpleasant, as soon as I walked onstage they had a massive tech failure. So by the way there's like, 10,000 people in this audience. This is a huge speech; there's 10,000 people out there. Things are leaking out of me (chuckles). I've had to rewrite my speech in the past week, and so I've just barely memorized it, and suddenly none of the tech works. I've got no slides; I've got no microphone. I've got nothing. It was a killer speech, perfect. Why, because I've spent a really long time training myself to be my best when I was at my worst. And because I have given that speech while I was hiking up a mountain with my dogs, okay yeah so I was a little sick onstage and didn't have any slides? Fuck it, who cares, right? I'm just going to go right through. Really matters, and you're going to spend a lot of time doing this, training to be at your best when you're at your worst, and the situation is never going to come up, it's never going to come up, and then that one day it will show up. You're going to do this for one or two or three days in your life, but those days will be critical and it's worth doing. And more than anything else, knowing, knowing inside that you're capable of being your best when you're at your worst, really fundamental. Cold immersion is another way that you can train this. If you are not interested in physical exercise, cold showers. This is what Wim Hof does; this is how he trains it, right? Ice baths, put yourself in very uncomfortable, painful situations, right? Extend the time: a little bit longer, a little bit longer, a little bit longer. The extra rep, with micro tests. This is, again, when I'm in the gym, I'm exhausted; instead of doing 10 reps I'm going to add an 11th in. Now the micro-test, this is where it actually starts to apply in our lives. So, we talked about this earlier, that the best time to multitask, which you can't do, is sort of at the tail end of that flow state. What I have found is, I've got my clear goal list, right? There's always a couple of those goals that are little things, right? So let's say I've put a tremendous amount of energy into my writing, and then I've got a couple of really annoying things. Rather than breaking right after my writing, when I want to break, when I really ... I add in one extra task; I make myself do one more task than I would normally like to do, just one, right; 4% push. It doesn't have to be big, just a little step forward, but you want to do that kind of stuff on a daily basis, so you're constantly teaching yourself that you can go farther than you think you can go. We are all capable of so much more that we think we are capable of, but most people never even get to the point of exhaustion where they figure out that there is a second wind, let alone a third, fourth, fifth, or sixth. But you can keep going and keep going and keep going if you train for it.