The power of the mind has always fascinated me since I began my study of martial arts nearly forty years ago.
Lured by the mystique of the orient and fuelled by an inner drive to learn, no matter what, I have always strived to find out exactly how to control that space between my ears!
As an entrepreneur, I have always talked about my mindset being the most important factor in my success.
You can call it a growth mindset, a powerful mindset, or simply having the ability to be strong-willed, but I know that without a strong and tough mind, I would never have achieved what I have achieved.
Over the years, I have found many techniques and strategies to help me strengthen my mind and I want to share those with you in this article.
I am combining my entrepreneurial, business, and life experiences with many people who have inspired and in some cases mentored me and from all walks of life — martial artists, entrepreneurs, businessmen, executive leaders, special forces personnel, musicians, top chefs, teachers, and others.
All of these people had one common denominator — a powerful and growth mindset.
I am going to combine this information with some other theories of mine — and they are just theories, so please take them at face value and do your own research and also if you practice anything that I write about in this article, then do so at your own risk!
Life throws many things at all of us during our time on this earth and for me, it is far more important to learn to survive before attempting to follow any path to success…whatever the definition of success means to you.
I believe that we are born with very powerful and growth mindsets.
As children, we effortlessly display the qualities of fearlessness, creativity, imagination, persistence, and we are able to suck up knowledge faster than a dry sponge in an oasis.
Nobody teaches a child how to walk for example — they do that through trial and error, plus a little help and guidance from the parents, but in the same manner, nobody teaches a child to be fearless.
Those qualities are innate…but they are soon forgotten as the child turns into an adult and all of the innocence, fearlessness, and other qualities disappear.
I believe that to build a powerful, strong, and growth mindset, you have to learn to face, embrace, and overcome your fears.
Instead of following the usual success mantra of having a positive mental attitude at all times, learn to embrace the negative and live in the real world where anything can and usually does happen.
The words “positive” and “negative” are just words…they are subjective depending on your perspective and in real life, just like nature, there is a balance.
Learn to accept the balance and then take yourself out of your comfort zone to face and embrace your fears and weaknesses.
It is through this feeling of being uncomfortable that you learn to survive…and this creates a reference point in your mind.
From here, you can build on that point and also create others…it is the database of reference points that then come together to re-wire and re-program your mind so that you can then intently focus that mind in relation to your goals, ambitions, and dreams.
The words “re-wire” and “re-program” are critical, as I will talk about later — and there have been many developments in the study of the human brain, which of course, is very exciting.
I hope you enjoy the read!
Growth mindset — introduction
“I’ve had so many lectures about having a growth mindset as opposed to fixed mindset.
At these lectures we hear the messages:
‘Don’t worry,’ ‘don’t stress’ and ‘be happy.’
We are also told that we must also be ‘resilient.’
It is further explained to us that we shouldn’t have a fixed mindset, because it holds us back from success.
But here is the problem…nobody tells us how to do it!”
Sofia Grace Franklin, (aged fifteen).
I am glad that my daughter is receiving some form of mindset training at her school, but clearly she is suffering from what most people suffer from — an explanation of how to achieve the right mindset.
As a fifty-six-year-old male, I can see the difference between my childhood and that of my children.
There were no discussions about mindset in my school days, nor were there any discussions in my home and for me, it was all about being told to “put in the work” — as a child, I was encouraged to “better myself” and to gain the academic qualifications required to at least put me in the running for a job that would serve the purpose of providing a nice retirement, after having a life of producing 2.4 children (the average in those days) and then sitting back and enjoying the rewards of working life, in the form of a nice pension, a house that is paid for and doing all of those things that you do at that time of life.
But I was never destined for that life — after working part-time whilst at college, selling home improvements door-to-door, I found the entrepreneurial spirit within me, to eventually start my own business at the tender age of nineteen…and I never looked back.
“A quitter never wins,” as the saying goes and a “winner is too stupid to quit,” is a spin on the well-known phrase.
I was definitely too stupid to quit and that was the key component that led to my success…if the truth is known!
I would never, ever quit.
As a child, I would like to think I was protected in every sense of the word, but compared to life today, then I was almost allowed to run riot!
We are made in our childhood and when I looked at my children as they were growing up, I could see the innocence, fearlessness, self-confidence, creativity, imagination…the list goes on.
So what happens to all of these wonderful qualities?
In my opinion, it is us wise adults combined with other environmental factors, shut them down.
I remember talking to my imaginary friend when I was small and vividly describing them to my family, who would initially laugh and even ask me about the conversation (I would give them precise details as that person was very real to me) until one day I was told not to be “stupid.”
There was also a time when as a young pianist, I dared to venture away from Messrs Bach, Beethoven and Mozart to try to play my favorite song that I heard on the radio to have a family member shut me down instantly with words to the effect of “why are you playing that rubbish.”
Such words to adults are relatively meaningless, but to a child, they are crushing…and I was no exception.
There were many moments like these and I bear no grudges to the people who did shut me down during that all-important childhood and developmental years because they probably never understood the consequences of such words and actions and that is probably how they were raised.
But when I had my children, I was determined to “break the pattern” and I want my children to be full of natural confidence, to embrace and overcome fear and also to passionately follow their dreams.
My youngest son is ten and he is a fearless YouTuber, who is still convinced he has come from an alien planet!
Who am I to disagree?
You see, my approach to developing a strong, powerful, and what is now termed a “growth mindset,” is as follows:
- Embrace fear and stop focussing on success.
- Start with the body and let the mind connect.
- Detach and re-program and re-wire your brain — let the brain do its work.
- Stop giving a f*ck and let go!
This article is written from my own perspective and with real examples of how I overcame my own fears in early childhood and into my teenage years, to eventually start my own business and enjoy life as an entrepreneur.
My aim is simple — I hope that my experiences will help and inspire yours and this article is a tough one to write because developing the right mindset is probably the most important thing you will have to do in life and there are so many components to it.
So let’s start with a definition or two.
What is a growth mindset?
The term “growth mindset” was developed by psychologist Carol Dweck.
Dweck’s work in this field in simple terms is based on two concepts:
- A “fixed mindset,” where qualities such as intelligence and other personality traits are innate.
- A “growth mindset,” where those same qualities, through effort, can be trained and learned.
It’s encouraging to see that the work of Dweck has made it to my daughters’ school, but like everything, taking something at a conceptual level and making it work in practice are two entirely different things.
I look at the work of Dweck with interest, because I love the subject of psychology and have listened to many lectures and debates concerning whether a trait, for example, is innate in an individual, or whether it is learned:
You can read endlessly about this debate and like all things, form your own conclusions, but I believe we are more influenced by our environment than we are by our genetic factors…but I am no scientist although I love to conduct my own research into many things, especially human psychology.
I, however, am more concerned with developing a powerful mind.
Now take a look at this definition of a powerful mind.
So for me, it is more about developing a mindset that can have great power, force, potency, or effect on what you do.
I am not convinced that it is so black and white between a fixed or growth mindset — some traits are innate and many are learning, so this is why I leave these aspects to the psychologists to figure out and I am sure that one day, we will have definitive answers.
In my role as a business coach and mentor, I am frequently called upon to help people solve those tough and challenging business problems that keep them awake at night.
In the first interaction with the person concerned, I very quickly assess their mindset, because usually, the problem is related to how they look at a specific situation, rather than the situation itself.
80% of business success is about having the right mindset.
20% is execution, but make sure you are prepared to put nothing less than 100% into that execution.
For example, if there is a crisis situation, many business owners will literally freeze and panic as a first response, which is of course usual, and as I have done so in my life many times in my early business career.
As an outsider, I am able to take a much calmer view and work methodically through a process to solve the problem and because of my experience (I have been in many crisis situations), I can come up with some very creative solutions.
At the other end of the scale, I see many entrepreneurs who are running successful companies, who are so “married” to their ideas and fixated on what they do, that they lose sight of what is around them — the problem now turns to the area of risk management, as they are not aware of a change in their market dynamics for example, or that the competition is creeping up behind them and their customers.
So here we have “fear” in the first example and “fixation” in the second.
My challenge is not so much in helping to solve the business problem, but one of changing the mindset of the individual, which would allow them to solve their own problems.
Now there are some cases where I simply cannot help certain people and this again comes down to their mindset.
A couple of years ago I worked with one individual who was running a company but struggling to increase revenues. It was crystal clear to me as to what the problems were and in a matter of a couple of hours, I came up with a plan, which could be executed immediately.
Like most good plans, it was a simple one and perhaps too simple for the person concerned as they fought me on each and every point.
Despite me countering each objection with sound logic and an example of how the plan has worked for others, it was still met with total and utterly illogical resistance and working through the alternative suggestions from the business owner, which had all been tried and failed, I could see that I was going to get nowhere…and fast.
In these situations, I always finish with one explanation — that the individual is standing in their own way and if they would only get out their own way, they would enjoy a much better outcome for both them and their business.
Don’t stand in your own way!
Can you re-wire your brain?
As we have discussed, Carol Dweck has talked about the concept of having a growth rather than a fixed mindset and that implies that we can learn new tasks and develop our intelligence rather than accepting the intelligence we are born with.
An what about the function of the brain…what do we really understand about the function of this vital organ?
Neuroplasticity or brain plasticity is the ability of the brain to re-organize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life — you can think of it as “muscle building” in the brain and the ability to strengthen existing neural connections as well as form new ones from new learning experiences.
It also offers hope for people with brain and other injuries and the term was first used by Jerzy Konorski.
Lisa Feldman-Barrett is a distinguished professor of psychology at Northeastern University, who explains that the brain is predictive and not reactive — she talks about all of our neurons constantly firing and stimulating one another and at various rates in an effort to predict the future based on past experiences.
I had been involved in predictive modeling for businesses when I co-founded a telecommunications software company after the technology recession of the early 2000s.
Operations Research (OR) is a means of approaching a problem or set of problems scientifically and as an example, mathematical models are created to test various “what if” scenarios to find the best solution to a problem.
It is an extremely powerful business tool and when I started to follow the work of Feldman-Barrett, it rammed home the point that our brains are doing this constantly.
So for me, the brain is constantly creating models of what might and could happen in the future, based to a degree on our past experiences and I say “to a degree,” because it may be possible that our brains might predict randomly.
As we open ourselves up to acquiring new skills and knowledge, we are potentially creating new scenarios in our minds to utilize that knowledge, which of course, drives home the importance of having a growth mindset.
The brain’s ability to re-wire and re-organize itself as in the concept of neuroplasticity is extremely exciting when it comes down to people with damaged brains through having a stroke for example and it doesn’t stop there.
With every thought or emotion, we reinforce a neural pathway and over time, we can change the way our brains work.
We can create a new way of being.
I believe that everything and anything is possible — and that is because I have an open mind!
I look at the brain in a very simplistic way and as a muscle — it needs to be exercised every day and if you don’t use it, you run the risk of losing it!.
Growth mindest — embrace fear.
Fear is your direct route to success.
Start embracing the negatives in your life, work on your weaknesses, and stop obsessing with success.
Every chain will break at the weakest link.
Each time you overcome fear and even the smallest of fears, you build a reference point in your mind — you are setting a benchmark in your mind that is elevated in relation to the fear that you once had and then you keep building new reference points over time and as you overcome more of your fears.
Once I understood this concept, I felt liberated — the pressure had gone and I no longer felt the need to compete with anything or anyone. I will talk about the success obsession more a little later, but for now let’s take a look at what really holds us all back — good, old-fashioned fear.
I will say right now that there are no magic pills to overcome fear, but there are a ton of tips and ideas that can help you.
The first and simplest way to overcome your fear is to simply ignore it and just “do.”
I know this sounds easy and obvious…but it is the quickest way to confront and overcome your fear if you are able to do it and many are not.
There is a great book written on the subject by Susan Jeffers called “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
Have a read and see if it can motivate and inspire you and I am more inclined to take this approach when overcoming my own fears as it stops me thinking too much about them — I tell myself to just “do it” and to hell with the consequences!
If you are not so gung-ho, then you may need to take a slower and more thoughtful approach.
I had a huge phobia about snakes and spiders…until I lived in Texas and they were as routine as harmless insects and creatures are over here — only some of the snakes and spiders are lethal in Texas.
My friend actually kept up to forty snakes at one time and proceeded to educate me about these reptiles. Also, he taught me about the various spiders you will find and how to identify those that are dangerous.
It’s amazing what a little education can do for you and soon I was able to easily hold snakes and work out which spiders and other creatures need to be avoided.
My daughter has her sights firmly set on studying at the Royal Welsh School of Music & Drama, to become a classical singer and she had a fear of singing without music to accompany her and what is termed as “A Cappella.”
So she took a slow and structured approach to learn each and every note in her vocal range, by sitting down at the piano and playing each note followed by singing the note to make sure it was pitch-perfect.
Over time, she was able to make the connection between what she is hearing and then being able to sing the note correctly, and then we would sit down together and listen to singers who sang unaccompanied, to give her visual proof that it could be done.
We had in effect, created a three-way feedback mechanism — playing notes, hearing them, and then repeating the notes until the pitch was perfect.
The “play,” “hear” and “sing” method enabled her to eventually hear notes in other people’s singing and identify them, plus by watching other people sing unaccompanied, she knew that the task being asked of her was not impossible.
This is the crux of overcoming your fears — have other people had the same fears that you have and did they overcome them…and how?
Once you see others do something, your brain will tell you that it is not impossible.
In my case, I heard so many stories from the people that inspired me, that reference points were being created without me even having to have the experience — it is again amazing what the brain can do and you find yourself in the situation where you believe that because someone you know, admire and respect can do something, you can do it also.
This is extremely powerful.
Now I would like to add something about reading other people’s books, hearing stories, or watching movies for inspiration.
You must be careful about how you use the information and remember that you have not lived their lives…this is extremely important and also be wary of the self-help gurus who continue to ram home the importance about “positivity” and being totally positive at all times.
Many years ago, I bought a book from one such guru, ended up meeting him personally and investing in one of his start-up companies.
At the meeting I raised a series of questions, all centering around what could go wrong and the response was not to focus on negativity and instead just be positive. I’m sorry, but I live in the real world and things always go wrong, despite the best planning efforts.
I plan for things to go wrong before I even think about success and that ensures my defenses are put up should they need to be tested and hopefully they don’t…but in my experience, they always will be.
The venture failed and I lost my investment…but I was only investing money that I could afford to lose.
When I listen to stories, I am always conscious of how those events in the stories play or could play into my own life because I always remain focussed on me.
Alongside fear comes anxiety and when fear and anxiety start to collaborate, they can run riot within you with your emotions now getting completely out of control.
Now you have to learn to relax!
Breathing deeply from your abdomen is one way to instantly calm yourself — as you take long and deep breaths like in the video below, you can slowly start to relax your muscles and although the video is talking about pregnancy, you can get the idea.
My friend Chris Ray Chappell is an internal martial arts master and he is an expert in adapting the principles of the ancient martial arts of china, to everyday life.
One of his clients was an international corporate lawyer who suddenly had bouts of anxiety when he had to travel across the globe, at short notice and negotiate with other high-powered lawyers.
His simple breathing techniques were the answer and the lawyer was able to handle extremely high-stress situations with a lot less stress than before and all from the simple art of breathing.
Overcoming your fears is a work in progress and you need to devote time and energy to it.
Here are some of my tips to overcome fear:
- Embrace fear — understand it, accept it, and don’t fight it. You are building on a survival mechanism that nature put in place to alert and arouse us.
- Educate yourself — look at the fear from a totally detached perspective and logically create a plan to overcome it. Knowledge is power and also look at other people who have overcome the same fear and gain inspiration by trying to implant that knowledge into your own life.
- Just “do it.” Sometimes there is no need for complexity, thought or deliberation…just get over the fear and get on with your life.
- Put your fear into context — sometimes you need the fear factor to take you to the next level and here we are back to education. Growth follows a path and that path will require you to take steps into the unknown and for the better.
- Define the fear — is it something that is real or did you create it? Many of our fears are self-created because we are too focussed on the “what if” scenario of the future that has not happened.
- Breathe — learn to use the breathing force that lies within you. Deep, abdominal breathing will calm your entire self, so this is really the starting point of using the body to control the mind.
There is no shortcut to overcoming your fears and you must, sadly, find your own way, but as with anything, if you are committed, determined, and really want to change your mindset and ultimately, your life, you will find that way.
Developing a powerful mindset — start with the body
“The way to the mind is first through the body.”
Chris Ray Chappell, Internal martial arts master.
The building blocks of developing a powerful mindset start in my opinion, by making yourself physically uncomfortable.
You start with the body and then let the mind connect.
When I started my global staffing company from my living room in my South London apartment, I had a huge problem in the early days concerning getting out of bed in the morning and walking to my “office,” which was just a few feet away.
You can read my story here.
There were many days when I simply felt dejected and found any excuse not to get out of bed…but I knew I had to and then I came up with a plan where immediately upon waking, I would take a cold shower lasting for a few minutes, get out of the shower and wait until I had that warm feeling; then I would dry myself and have breakfast.
I did this religiously until I no longer needed to and the entire experience was an uncomfortable one.
When I was living in London, I used to regularly douse myself in ice-cold water, especially in the winter months and I learned about this in Russia — later when I lived in Dallas and during the rare cold winter and icy months, I would jump into the swimming pool in the mornings, before breakfast.
I am not trying to make myself look like some hero, rather explain to you that when you do things that make you uncomfortable, you start to build those valuable reference points that will help you develop a strong and powerful mind and it is as simple as:
“I’ve done it once so I can do it again.”
In 1993, I sustained an injury to my left hip that would see me needing a total hip replacement, and the potential for that operation was diagnosed in 2001, with the operation deemed necessary in 2010, when I was living in Dallas, Texas.
We are now in 2020 and I still have not had the operation and since 2016, I have stopped using a walking stick or cane, which I was reliant upon before meeting Chris Chappell.
Chris started teaching me internal martial arts in 2016 and because we live so far apart, the teaching was infrequent and supplemented by many phone and Skype calls to make sure I was performing the movements as best as I could.
I learned to start exercising my body from the inside out — this was an alien concept to me as I was used to seeing and feeling some form of physical improvement, but when you are literally standing still for around thirty minutes (one of the exercises), it is hard to imagine or grasp the concept of anything really happening.
But this is the principle of learning internal martial arts and with the emphasis on the word “internal.”
It is totally counter-intuitive.
I have always been fascinated by internal arts and I saw them as the epitome of all things martial arts — the ability to generate tremendous energy and through almost no movement, would attract the attention of most, let alone an already “bought-in” martial artist.
Chris Chappell explained to me that in order to experience movement, you must first learn to stand still, and in doing so correctly, you will align your body as a whole, both internally and externally.
As you progress, you will learn where the tension exists in your body and learn to relax those parts.
For me, although my hip was damaged, the tension existed almost everywhere as my body had compensated for the injury over the years — but there was a huge amount of tension in my mind.
Like most entrepreneurs, I am always on the go, always mulling over a million thoughts and relaxation is something I have never really experienced, but when I learned how to “stand,” I was now faced with a very real problem:
Where does my mind wander and where does it eventually go?
Standing for thirty minutes leaves you no option but to empty your mind…eventually!
In the first few practice sessions, I was literally all over the place physically and mentally — I was shaking from such a simple exercise, simply because as Chris explained, my nervous system was so wired up that it was starting to release and I was learning how to relax, plus my mind would now start to have ten million thoughts.
Eventually, as I persevered, everything started to calm down.
Chris now started to introduce the mind and in very simple terms, he told me to put my mind into a body part and connect my thoughts to that part.
Chris was a student of the great martial artist Bruce Kumar Frantzis and take a look at the video below to learn the basics of what is termed “standing meditation” and this practice is to help circulate the life-force energy called qi in Chinese.
I will leave you to do your own research concerning the life-force energy and all I can tell you from personal experience is that I have been receiving Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment for over thirty years and if fact if it wasn’t for TCM, I would probably not be alive today.
I had learned some of the concepts relating to life-force energy when I was studying in Russia.
We practiced a lot of breathing exercises and they were designed to both relax you and help with the healing of the body if you had any ailments or injuries.
I was told to place my mind into my damaged hip and to try to feel my pulse in that hip!
It actually worked and in the same manner, I was able to “move” the feeling of my pulse around my body.
With the art of standing, I simply combined what I had learned in Russia with what Chris was teaching me and as crazy as it sounds…it works.
When I first went to Chris’s studio in London, I had to walk up a couple of flights of stairs with my cane and also around the studio…but a couple of hours later, I was walking around the studio without the aid of the cane and also walked down the stairs almost normally.
This was not a pleasant experience by the way and Chris at many points had to physically hold me up as I tried to maintain my balance, let alone try to stand still…but with perseverance, I was able to keep going and eventually stand unaided and then, very slowly and deliberately, I re-learned how to walk!
There is a huge mind-body connection and they must be unified.
We all stub our toes against a door, smash our elbows or “funny bone” on a hard object, and most of us, scream and yell, with the usual Oscar-winning drama that usually seems to follow.
Learning to simply ignore and not engage emotionally with the experience is a difficult task, but it helps you develop a strong mind.
In the above video, the practitioner is being tested in what is known as a “Kata” or Form” in martial arts.
He is learning to detach from the physical pain being inflicted by the instructor and to remain focussed on performing the form itself.
The instructor is basically teaching the student how to withstand punishment, which is a necessary part of combat and at the same time to continue with the work and please note that this is not an exercise in brutality and the student will have been carefully brought through a process before he or she reaches the point where this kind of testing can be withstood.
I am not, by the way, suggesting that you all become martial artists and start to punish your bodies.
I am using my own experiences to make a point and there are many ways to develop the mind-body connection that is not so brutal — at least in appearance!
You can meditate for example and there are so many misconceptions about exactly what meditation is and this definition talks about giving your attention to one thing — something that is extremely hard for an entrepreneur like myself to do and as I am sure it is for many of you.
In Russia, we were taught how to relax by simply laying on the floor, breathing deeply, and then focussing on each body part starting with the feet and working our way up to the head.
The purpose of the exercise was to focus on relaxing each body part in isolation and then to have the feeling that the entire body is “falling” through the floor.
It took me a few attempts to get the feeling, but I will say that I entered into some kind of meditative state during the process, which was also extremely relaxing as well.
Meditation for some is just like the pursuit of success — you try so hard to focus on nothing, that you end up focussing on everything.
For me, I was much better suited to simply laying down and relaxing.
If you like walking, then it is also very possible to get into a similar meditative state whilst on a long walk — you will naturally relax and your mind will end up thinking about nothing, simply because you were enjoying the walk, rather than walking to try to think about nothing!
If that makes sense to you?
I come back again to the word “detachment” and the more I just “do” and without thinking about what I am doing, the more I am able to do whatever I am doing more successfully.
Growth mindset — let the brain do the work.
Once I learned about predictive modeling and especially the work of Lisa Feldman-Barrett, I saw a whole new approach as to developing the mind.
Add to this the discovery and further work in the field of neuroplasticity and you have a solid blueprint for overall mental development.
Now it is time to detach and let the brain do the work.
If you are familiar with the movie, The Matrix, then you will get what I am about to say…and if not, then I suggest that you watch it!
Living in a world of simulated reality, the movie talks about how humans, who are living inside this machine-driven simulation are fighting for survival and one such human, Neo, is designated as the savior or the “chosen one” to save the race.
In a scene, Neo is wired to a machine and a martial arts combat program is downloaded into his brain, which will enable him to fight the superhuman aliens who masquerade as humans.
I believe that there is an irony to this — Holywood blockbusters are rarely far from the truth in my mind and having personally been in the technology space for most nearly all of my working life, I have seen the future, so to speak.
If the human brain is predictive rather than reactive, as Felman-Barrett explains, then we are into new territory.
I believe we should implant as much knowledge into our brains as possible and then let the predictive part of our brains start to work wonders and model for future scenarios.
Now I admit that this is an extremely simplistic viewpoint, but I want you to get the matrix idea!
I will give you an example — how many times do you hear the words “second nature” and in the context that someone performs a task or does something that has people saying it’s “second nature to them?”
Repetition is the key to mastery and of course success.
Take a look at special forces soldiers and operatives — they have certainly learned to overcome their fears and as one member said to me at one time:
“I don’t know that I can ever overcome all of my fears, but I can certainly control them.”
I know a handful of special forces operatives and all of them as you can imagine, have extremely strong mindsets. Naturally, I asked the question as to what makes them so good and the response was always the same — training and repetition.
All of them talk about being just “ordinary” people, but of course, to everyone else they are not, they are extraordinary.
They went on to explain that they train relentlessly and keep the training as close to the “real thing” as possible, plus they perform each task thousands of times until it becomes second nature.
If you combine this with a sense of fearlessness, you have a formidable individual who can excel at anything in life.
My friend John Washburn is one such individual who is happy to be named as he served in the US Green Berets many years ago and now he is an active deacon in his church in Texas.
I talked to John recently about having the correct mindset and he simply answered that you need to define your life’s mission and then go out and achieve it.
He talked about having different “missions” throughout his own life and the importance of recognizing when those missions change…but that he never forgot his special forces training and never will!
The brain has an enormous capacity for learning and it is important that you exercise your brain often and this is easily accomplished by learning new tasks.
My two sons are committed to becoming professional soccer players and they are aged ten and thirteen.
Both of them were born in the US, where soccer is a rising sport, but the sport is very different over there and particularly the mindset of the people who run kids soccer.
Most are convinced that the children benefit from an almost non-competitive approach and to give you an example, my eldest son Sam, was playing a match where they lost around thirteen to zero!
I had lost count of the goals and asked the opposing team what the score was to which the reply came:
“The score is not important, it’s the taking part that counts”
I was astounded and immediately responded in my true British fashion that it is an uber-competitive game and in the UK, it is taken extremely seriously at any age and it’s not the taking part that counts, it’s the winning.
The look on the other person’s face was almost one of disgust and I then took time to explain to my son that this whole approach was wrong and he should not listen to it, which served him well because when we moved back to the UK a few years ago, he realized exactly what I was talking about and thankfully adapted very quickly.
You have to be careful as to what you plant into your brain before you set it to work.
Soccer, like everything, is dependent on learning skills and one thing I was very careful to do from the moment my sons became interested in the sport, was to make sure they could play with both feet!
Left foot drills for a right-footed player are often ignored by many in their younger days in the sport and it is critical to teach soccer players to kick with the same power and technique, from either leg.
My sons would perform one hundred kicks each and every day with their weakest foot and for my daughter, it was a matter of making sure she would endlessly drill her ability to sing pitch-perfect.
Those hours have paid off tremendously for my children and they will for you as well.
Now we come to the subject of “detachment.”
I will use my children again as an example to start off:
Although my children are fully immersed in their chosen interests, I am teaching them to detach themselves from any outcome when it comes down to training.
Perfect practice makes perfect as the saying goes, but there needs to be an element of “play” when it comes down to learning something.
Let’s go back to our childhoods for a moment and try to remember a time when you were playing with your friends and had no concept of time and you would play for hours, without any conscious thought.
You also had no concept of measuring exertion and I am sure you would play until you dropped if you liked what you were doing.
My children have a practice worksheet, which they work through systematically at each session…but there is also time set aside to try new things and without any fear of the outcome.
For example, my daughter is a classical singer, but that doesn’t stop me on occasion from asking her to sing a Jazz number from one of the great jazz singers.
I showed my sons the Afro-Brazillian art of Capoeira, which was the inspiration of what is described as the soul of Brazillian soccer and the beautiful, free football style know as “Ginga.”
It is vital to have a structured approach to training and can you imagine the world of special forces if there were not…but equally there are a time and a place to try new ideas.
Saturday is the day for this freestyle approach in my house and it begins with my daughter returning from her college and my eldest has already played his club soccer match with my youngest getting ready for his game the next day.
We have jazz singing followed by blasting out samba music and they will continue until late at night.
I can see the influences coming into their performances in singing and soccer!
I always explain to my children that they should detach themselves from the outcome of their training and simply do it.
In this way, the fear of making mistakes is removed and I have noticed that they train a lot harder and happier.
So immerse yourself in whatever you choose to do, seek out new knowledge relentlessly and then implant that knowledge into your brain by practicing without any attachment to the session, which will stop you from becoming fearful.
Then go out and perform.
Growth mindset — stop giving a f*ck!
“Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier.”
The above quote is from the book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by mark Mark Manson.
I wished I had the book “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck,” by Mark Manson when I was a lot younger because it would have certainly changed my outlook on life.
I believe that Manson is right — we are obsessed with positivity and to our detriment — I don’t want to spoil the book for you if you haven’t read it and if you have, then what I will go on to say may resonate with you.
It is the sheer focus on having to be positive all of the time that re-enforces what we don’t have, in terms of success at this moment, so the mind enters this “combative” state.
On the one hand, we are desperate for the success — more money, a better life, a happy relationship and so on…but we know at this point that we don’t have it and that then creates a measure of self-doubt:
I believe I can be successful and achieve the life of my dreams…or do I?
It is this battle that rages in the minds of people who are so attached to being successful and then you combine this with the idea that you must have or develop a “positive mental attitude.”
Now here is my take on that term — a battery will function with both a negative and a positive pole and the functionality is therefore balanced.
So you may conclude like me, that balance is the key — it’s exactly the same in all aspects of life and particularly with regard to your mental attitude.
I am a realist — I embrace positivity and accept negativity as a part of everyday existence — it is logical to me.
When I was growing up in the UK back in the 1960s/70s, everybody cared…and about everything.
Your background, image, education, what you did for a living and then you were judged accordingly.
I wish I could have stopped giving a f*ck about anything and everything back in those days.
But there is for me, a specific way of not giving a f*ck!
It is not about turning your back on authority, ignoring your boss, being disrespectful or being indifferent, it’s not about being overtly insensitive:
You just that you have to stop caring what people think of you…and to stop thinking anything of them!
It’s none of my business what you think of me, or is it any of your business what I think of you!
The crux of it all is that deep down and whether we admit it or not, we all care about what people think of us…and that leads us to start to think and voice our opinions of what we think of others.
I teach my three children to be polite, courteous and always think of treating others in the way that they want to be treated themselves.
I know it is a cliche statement, but I truly re-enforce that single value almost daily…and then I tell them to stop worrying about what people think of them.
Learn that mistakes happen, things do go wrong and people will upset you.
It is ok to have negative emotions as they are a necessary component of life — how would you even know what a positive emotion is without having a negative one to compare it to?
Put it all together — learn to embrace fear and accept the negative components in your life, focus on your weaknesses and start by using the body, then implant new knowledge into your brain with detachment and let your brain do the work.
Finally…stop giving a f*ck!
Your mindset is your most valuable asset — it is the focal point for everything that you do.
But today we are overwhelmed with needing to have a total sense of positivity, which in reality is unsustainable, even if we wanted it to be.
The real world is full of success, failure and everything in between — we must learn to survive in this world before we turn our attention to success…at least in my opinion.
It’s time to embrace the real world and one of balance…just like the way nature balances itself and only when we can recognize this, we can start to live in harmony.
As a child you possessed all of the qualities of a powerful growth mindset…it’s just that they have been drilled out of you or you have forgotten them…or both!
Think of the sense of fearlessness a child has, the sense of imagination, and the ability to create something out of nothing.
In my opinion, the route to developing a powerful and growth mindset lies in facing, embracing, and ultimately overcoming your fears.
You do this by taking yourself out of your comfort zone and deliberately making yourself feel uncomfortable and then you learn to connect mind and body by starting with the physical and in whatever form that appeals to you.
Next, it is time to re-wire-and reprogram the brain with new knowledge and as you are acquiring that knowledge, learn to detach yourself from the outcome — this is a truly liberating process.
The brain can now work miracles.
Finally, learn not to give a f*ck!
Last modified: June 9, 2020