Your options to everything

Our evolution made us develop two ways of instinctively responding to everything around us; fight or flee. While these have been perfect for our survival in the past, our evolution has transformed society and progress has taken the place of survival. Under these new circumstances, our response options have changed as well.

In our modern society, when facing problems, opportunities, challenges, even relationships, we have three options to consider: ignorance, acceptance and change.

Ignorance is what we do in most cases. There are too many things happening around us, too much information, too many people. We filter most of everything simply by ignoring them because they are of no interest to us. Think about all the emails going to our spam folder that we just delete without even looking at them.

We also ignore some other things that interest us just out of commodity, habit or fear. It’s the case of that email you still avoid to answer, the tasks you postpone until the last minute, the person asking for your help that you just put off for later. This is just a way to pretend that the obvious is not there.

Acceptance, on the other hand, is to understand that eventually you will have to answer to that email, to do that task or help that person out, so just get to work. Most times acceptance comes after ignorance, when the latter is no longer an option, when something is right in your face and there is no way around it. You might be able to ignore the emails in your spam folder for ever, but once caught outside in the rain you can’t just ignore it, but accept it.

When you can’t ignore something and you can’t accept it, the only option is to change it. This is what most people think. The truth is that change is inevitable, it’s part of our world, of nature and of society. Most importantly, change is the drive behind our evolution, behind any innovation.

Change should never be considered as the last option but actually the first. When faced with a problem or when something is bothering you, the first thought should be about how to change it, how to make it better, how to improve your life. Only after that should ignorance come in line and only when that does not work should you accept the situation.

Change the things you can change, ignore what can be ignored and only then accept it.

You know what that means?

Most times I have an idea. Also most times what I think is totally different from the other person’s opinion. And here is where the debate starts and everyone fights for their own opinion. This is why this question should be converted to: “Tell me what you think you understood, so I can tell you how you got it wrong”.

Points of view differ and everyone draws their own conclusions. Most times there are no right or wrong conclusions, just different approaches, different solutions, prioritization, experience, skills. There are a lot of different ways to get to the same result, it’s just a matter of what path you want to take to get there.

The most important thing is to try and put yourself in the other person’s shoes, to understand their point of view, the solution they chose and see what’s to learn from that. Each insight might bring a different light on what you believed and offer new perspectives. All it takes is just some empathy and an open mind.

Seeing things through the eyes of someone else might open your own.

Seeing and understanding

On many occasions people live with the impression that once they have seen something then they also understand it. And this is where most people get it wrong. What people see is just the results, only the tip of the iceberg of what is really going on. Most times what’s really important can’t be seen.

When people talk about how certain companies or people became so successful just take into account the things they see. These are only part of what really matters. More important are the unseen things, the small decisions, actions, approaches that usually go unnoticed.

The best public speakers usually spend a few days to prepare a speech that will last a few minutes. After that they will also rehearse their speech at least a few times. What people see is the 20 minute speech and say it’s all charisma and dismiss all the work behind.

The same goes for companies like Apple in the case of which people talk about the hundred millions they invest in marketing and the genius that Steve Jobs had. What they don’t consider is the principles that the company is based on, the extremely talented people that work there, the innovations they bring.

It’s so easy to minimize things to what can only be seen, but the true value lays in what’s behind. Seeing and understanding aren’t always the same thing.

10 things about the “10 things you have to do in order to…”

In almost every book, blog, article, newspaper there are a few titles that indicate that inside you will find the 3, 5, 10 things you have to do in order to achieve anything from losing weight, becoming rich, being successful, being happy. Quite simply, the secret to everything in this world has been found and written about.

The only problem is that things are never that easy or if there is a secret it’s just so obvious that it’s not really a secret. Think of all the secrets about how to lose weight that are out there, all the diets, supplements and anything else you can think of. Let’s get one thing straight. In order to lose weight there is only one secret, burn more calories than you get from your food and drinks. That just means you have to stop eating as much or stop eating at all. It’s that easy.

When it comes to this kind of things the only “secret” out there is motivation. If you really want to lose weight you can just stop eating for a few days. Just test it. Measure your weight. Stop eating for 3 days. Measure your weight again. Secret revealed.

On the other hand there are a few other things that are not that obvious and here you can see most of these titles coming to save the day. I especially love the one revealing the secrets to success. They almost always have a combination of elements from working hard, to being creative, to learning from mistakes, to asking for help. What they never tell you is what the proportions for all of these are .

If it’s about hard work, I think there are a lot more people working harder and longer hours than most successful people did, people more creative, who invented and innovated a lot more, people who made far more mistakes and even some who asked for help all the time. Something must be wrong with the secret then.

The truth is that it’s never that simple. For things that do have a clear solution, like losing weight, it’s all about motivation. On the other hand, the things that don’t have a clear set of facts that produce the desired result, like success, are a combination of motivation, hard work and luck.

Even if no one ever says it, luck plays a big role in life. It actually beats any other 10 things I could have said.

Regression to the mean

Many people never take into account the phenomenon called regression to the mean. The basis of this is that if someone had an extremely good performance the natural tendency is that the next one will be lower, heading towards the average. If the second measurement is higher than the first, then actually the first was closer to the average and the second is just an abnormality. The same applies to low performances.

This explains why most really great performances are just a case of really good luck, and when trying to reproduce that most people will end up with lower results. At the same time, people who will fail badly will probably do better on future tries.

Also, because performances tend to be headed towards the average the only logical thing to do is to put on the hard work and increase your capabilities. This way, by increasing your average results you will maximize the potential of a lucky strike and reduce the consequences of failure.

Taking as many chances as possible will only increase the chance to have that amazing stroke of luck and do something memorable.