Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Complaining is like a drug. We get addicted to the euphoria of self importance, but inevitably it leaves us unfulfilled.

At the risk of sounding like a self-help guru (who aren't necessarily bad, but all too often fit a stereotype of someone selling snake oil) I thought I'd share a story.

I didn't used to spend a lot of time thinking about positive thinking. But one day during the lunch break of the very first Y Combinator Startup School I went to visit the Harvard Book Store. I just randomly picked up a book I saw there The Attractor Factor by Joe Vitale.

The act of buying and reading this book overnight that night in Boston was actually the most poignant thing that happened to me at Startup School. No disservice to Y Combinator or Steve Wozniak :), Startup School was great. But my attitude about achieving my goals changed considerably after reading that book 4.5 years ago. And I went on to apply for Y Combinator, start a business we've been running ever since, and achieving almost every bullet point of a goal I wrote down back then.

Again, I need to interject. I am not whole heartedly endorsing this book. There's probably some better versions of this type of thinking that aren't trying to backdoor sell you some other goods. I also don't subscribe to the thoughts that some magical mojo power of the universe thing is going on. Or that it's only our fault when bad things happen to us.

I just fell in love with the premise of ending the habit we all have of bitching, and visualizing goals like they've already been accomplished.

I look at super star athletes like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Both these guys have expressed how important visualization is to their games. I also look at how the placebo effect of medication is actually increasing today.

So I'm super interested in what the difference might be like if my mind is more positive about the things it's involved with.

My boiled down non-secret of the universe version of this stuff is basically:

- Stop complaining, you're wasting your breath and your time.

- Instead of keeping all your ideas in some vague space in your head, write them down.

- Now dream a bit larger and stretch those goals. Make them more audacious.

- Proceed to write a story or visualize it in your head, what you'd be like or feel like with those goals already accomplished and behind you.

- Then, let go of the goals. Realize that the goals could change. Your intent is to hope for these things or something better. It's impossible to know how life is paved in front of you. Accept that you can achieve these things or something better.

- Final step is to write down some things you can do today to get started on your goals. Baby steps.

I proceeded to work on this stuff immediately. I found it pretty tough to change my behavior of complaining and vague goal planning. But I liked the results of what I started back then.

The reason I bring this up is because for some reason it's so difficult to keep at this behavior. I look over that list from 4.5 years ago and I achieved so much of it. But there's still some things I wanted to get done, and a lot more new things to add.

But it's 4.5 years later and I've totally given up on all the steps above.

Not sure why, they seemed to work.

One reason is I (like most people) really enjoy complaining. It makes us feel more important. But like a drug, the high wears off and we are left with nothing truly accomplished. We also are afraid of making our goals less vague. If they remain vague and cloudy, then we can't really fail at them, can we?

This year, I'm back on the path described above. Back to nixing this habit of complaining. Back to visualizing some future awesome accomplishments behind me. So far so good, and I'm happy again with the results.

No comments: