Pain or Pleasure?

There are two prime movers in life that provide motivation to change where we are, and improve our position towards avoiding one, and moving towards the other; enter pain and pleasure. But, which is the more powerful motivating force in our lives?

“The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.”

– Tony Robbins

Ultimately, it comes down to these two things, and these two things alone. What are the sources of pain in our lives? These are the things we are motivated to move away from. Anything that causes us pain, will be a motivator for some sort of change in our lives as the only way to move away from a present source of pain is for it to be not so present anymore. If we change who are, who we associate with and how we behave then are able to facilitate changes in ourselves, and thus our lives, which reduces the amount of pain we feel.

Equally as important and motivating (especially for the male species it seems) is the desire to move towards experiences and behaviours that give us pleasure. Any experience that increases happiness, fulfilment or love in life is going to act as a powerful force pulling us towards more of the same. Who doesn’t want more pleasure in their lives, right?

But here’s the thing; are the two really equal in their power over us? Surprisingly, no.

“People will do more to avoid pain than they will do to gain pleasure”

– Tony Robbins

It seems pain is a much more powerful agent for change than gaining pleasure – something Tony has noticed after working with millions of people over the course of his career in coaching people to ultimate personal success. Increase someone’s level of pain they feel around something they’re not happy with in their life and they’re considerably more likely to make the changes necessary, and more importantly to embed those changes as a new way of live, than they are if they were to attempt to motivate themselves with the promise of pleasure as a reward for changing.

There are a few reasons for this, and it makes sense when you think about it. Firstly, if you’re in a position where you are feeling deep pain it’s like being in an oven turned up to maximum heat. You will do anything to stop the pain because it’s very real in the here and now. The alternative you’re trying to move towards might not even be pleasure, but just a more benign state that is more bearable than the searing heat of your current situation. In a state of pain, the here and now is far from comfortable, and this is a huge motivating factor.

Conversely, if the level of pain is more bearable, and you are attempting to motivate change by focusing on the pleasure of achievement, of reaching your goals, then your here and now is a lot more comfortable. Sure, it would be great to lose that weight, or to get a better job that you enjoy more, but that seems like a lot of work compared with the relative comfort of your present position. When the current level of pain is tepid, the motivation to get off your arse and do what needs to be done can wane quickly, like water through a sieve. Comfort is a dangerous animal, and we should all take great care to not spend too much time there – when we’re comfortable, we aren’t capable of achieving our greatest potential for personal and professional growth.

“In this World you’re either growing or you’re dying, so get in motion and grow”

– Lou Holtz

In the words of T. Harv Eker; you have to grow you comfort zone to grow your money zone. This is true in all walks of life; you don’t grow a muscle without first stressing it through exercise, and pushing it to the limits of it’s capability. You don’t improve your VO2 Max or marathon time without stressing your cardiovascular system and pushing it to it’s limits on a regular basis. Stress is the prime mover for growth, whether it’s physical stress to strengthen the body, or psychological stress to strengthen the fortitude of the mind. Just take a look around you, look deeply at the World and you will see this law of nature all around you as you start to notice the mechanics of life.

This is why so many people talk about wanting to change – and they really do want to change – but never actually do. It’s because they’re too comfortable where they are, and although they aren’t happy with their situation, they aren’t in enough pain to get the motivation required to take action and make the changes they need in their lives. A typical example is someone who complains constantly about their work life; they hate their job, their boss is an arsehole and the office politics are unbearable. Yet, those same people are still in the same situation after years of suffering because they are too comfortable. They might hate their jobs, but they make excuses like; I have a family to feed, I have a mortgage, I have obligations and commitments, and that’s why I am stuck where I am.

Bullshit. You’re stuck where you are because ever day you wake up and make a conscious choice to stay in a life you despise. Take some responsibility, own your life and your decisions, because no one is holding a gun to your head. You and you alone are the sole person who has made all the choices in your life, and if you haven’t then you have let others make your choices for you – which is still you making a choice to abdicate from making your own choices.

I’ve been that person, so I speak from first hand experience.

So, if you are not happy with some aspect of your life you need to make the experience more painful. Take that pain dial and turn it up to 11! Trying to coax yourself to change by dangling the carrot of pleasure is unlikely to have the motivational power required to make the significant changes in life that can really move the needle in your level of happiness and fulfilment. Instead, step into the pain of where you are and amplify it. A great exercise you can practice to do this is to meditate on the things that you’re not happy with in your life, and imagine traveling through time into your future – 5 years, then 10 years, then 20 years…. and see yourself and your life as it will be if you don’t make the changes you need to make in your life. What have you lost? What opportunities did you miss? What does it feel like to deal with that level of pain and despondency for all those years? How bitter have you become as a result of your resentment and low self-esteem? As you move years into your hypothetical future amplifying those feels and seeing all the negative effects not changing has had on you, your loved ones and your life as a whole, a determination builds up in you like no other. When the pain is so great from being fully aware and present in how your lack of action will manifest in your life years from now, you will also find an overwhelming motivation to get in motion and start doing things differently. From that state, go back to the present and commit fully to making the changes you need to make in your life – the pain from your current path now being so great that staying there is unbearable, and moving away from it is a must. See how those changes play out in your life, and feel all the rewards, happiness and fulfilment they will bring you over the coming weeks, months and years. The more present you can be throughout this exercise, the more potent the experience will be.

This is such a powerful method for combining the power of both pain and pleasure as agents for change. It’s an experience I have personally been through, and I can tell you it was a like a roundhouse kick to the face in waking me up and getting me making the changes I needed to make in my life.

Amazing things happen when you stand up and take ownership of your choices in life – doors open that you never knew existed and everything starts to come together. Is it easy? Fuck no. Remember what this blog is about? You NEED discomfort to grow! You need pain because it is a powerful prime mover. We are all going to feel both pleasure and pain in our lives no matter what decisions we make, because we can’t get it right all the time. That being the case, we need to learn how to make the pain and pleasure we experience work to serve us and build our character.

Pain and pleasure are both wonderful teachers, and they each teach very different subjects. The lessons taught by painful experiences cannot be taught by pleasurable experiences, and vice versa. We need both to grow, and to live in harmony and balance. That can be a hard thing to accept, especially with some of the decadence and brutality we see in the World, but in accepting this we allow ourselves to take back control of our lives and our destiny.

Life doesn’t happen to you, life happens for you.

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Understanding The Stock Market & Trading

The Stock Market and financial trading is probably one of the most misunderstood mechanisms on the planet. Anyone you ask will have an opinion about it, but very few actually understand what it is or how it all works.

This is a real shame, because the stock market and the various trading instruments that exist today have lowered the barrier of entry to this field monumentally in recent years, and the stock market is now accessible to pretty much everyone.

There are lots of misconceptions about the stock market, and the people who use it as a trading tool, and so it’s important that we understand the basics to be able to dispel the myths and sort the good advice from the bullshit.

So, what is the stock market?

Well, the stock market is basically a place where people trade emotions. I say that, because although the nuts and bolts of the stock market are the stocks, commodities and currency markets on one side, and the myriad of investors, retail traders and financial institutions on the other, the values of those stocks are largely based upon people’s collective emotions at any given moment. This is what you’re seeing when you seeing price action moving on the candle charts; it’s a visual representation of the mean average of the presiding emotional sentiment in the market at any given time.

So the components of the stock market are simply:

  1. Company Stocks/Shares (Apple, Facebook, Google etc.)
  2. Commodities (Gold, Silver, Platinum, Oil etc.)
  3. Currencies (FOREX – Foreign Exchange)
  4. Indices (these are collections of companies and so their value is the mean average of the value of all the companies within the index – an example would be the FTSE100, which is comprised of 100 of the top blue chip companies in the UK at any given point in time)
  5. ETF’s (Exchange Traded Funds – these are funds that are a marketable security tracking an index, a commodity, bonds or a basket of assets like an index fund)
  6. Investors (companies and individuals of various sophistications buying and selling stocks and shares on the market)
  7. Financial Institutions (banks, funds, brokers, and traders buying and selling on the stock market)
  8. Retail Traders (everyone else trading stocks and shares on the market)

Looks a little complicated doesn’t it? Well, it’s really not.

In order to simplify, look at it this way – it is the same as buying and selling food at a street market where prices fluctuate over time, only in the stock market this happens at a much faster rate.

For those who take the time and make the effort to understand the mechanics of it, there is the potential for rich rewards where every day your money works for you, rather than you working for money. Financial freedom is attainable for each and every one of us, all we have to do is take the time, and make the effort, to learn the rules of the game.

It doesn’t matter if the stock market is in the middle of a strong bullish rally, or a crashing bearish descent – when you know the rules, you can make money either way.

Ever since I started learning about trading the stock market and investing I was confused as to why more people didn’t know about it, and why more people weren’t doing it. It seems to me like this is something that they should be teaching our kids in school, as it stands to return significantly more handsomely than any bank on your pot of savings – if you know what you’re doing.

And it’s really not that hard; the rules are simple – it’s having the discipline to stick to them rigidly that is the challenge for most.

I should tell you now that 90% of people who try to learn how to trade end up failing and wiping out their accounts, and this is somewhat responsible for why it has a bad name. I cannot stress enough that there is no such things as a risky trade or a risky investment – only risky traders and risky investors. Those people who don’t have the education, the cohesive plan or the experience in the markets to have the first clue about what their doing, and who are basically gambling their money on the stock market. This is why 90% of traders fail – it’s a lack of knowledge and understanding of the rules of the game.

Trading Instruments

There are various different instruments that are available to retail traders these days, all with slightly different mechanisms but all based around the same set of skills. If you can trade the stock market, then your skills should be transferable across spread betting, trading CFD’s and investing in physical stocks and shares.

The main different instruments are:

  1. CFD’s (Contracts for Difference) – these pretty much do what they say on the tin, and is the main instrument I am trading at the moment due to the versatility of the social trading platforms available. When you trade on platforms that operate on a contract for difference basis you do not own any of the underlying asset, and so do not benefit from any dividend payments. All you are doing when you open a position is taking out a contract with your chosen broker agreeing that if the price of the asset increases or decreases from a fixed entry price then either you pay your broker a set amount per pip of price movement (if the price moves against direction of your position – up or down), or your broker pays you. When you close the position, you close the contract and either ending up taking profits (if you guessed the direction of the market correctly) or closing out for a loss if you guessed incorrectly. One of the big advantages to trading instruments likes CFD’s and Spread Betting is that you can use leverage to increase your asset holding without needing to invest or tie up the total value of the asset invested. However, be warned, whereas this drastically increases your ability to make significant profits, it also drastically increases the likelihood of having a catastrophic loss that wipes out your account – proper risk management should be observed at all times when trading
  2. Spread Betting – this works in exactly the same way as CFD’s, and you’re trading the same stocks and commodities on the same charts, only the profits you make trading through this instrument are completely tax free. This is because it’s called Spread ‘Betting’ and so because it’s classed as ‘gambling’, any profits are not currently subject to UK tax. This makes it an excellent instrument for generating a residual or passive income. Both Spread Betting and CFD trading allows for very easy entry and exit from trades, powerful leverage if used correctly and guaranteed stop losses and take profits for protecting your trading equity. They both also allow for you to enter positions to profit when the markets are both falling (bearish) and rising (bullish), by either going short (selling) or long (buying)
  3. Investing in actual Stocks and Shares – this is where you actually own the underlying asset, whether that’s a share in a company or some sort of ETF. This process is subject to higher broker fees when buying and selling, and so is better suited for longer term swing trades or long term investments. This method only allows you to profit when the asset increases in value or through the repeat dividend payments – if you own shares in companies that pay dividends then you will generate a regular passive income that can be used to reinvest in more shares and add to the compounding of your wealth. The more shares you own, the more dividend you get paid, and so the compounded growth is never ending and grow like a snowball rolling down the Alps

Fundamental or Technical?

There are two different techniques when it comes to trading – fundamental analysis, and technical analysis.

Fundamental Analysis is where you look at the financial and economic data for a given asset and make your trading and investment decisions based on the results of what you find in that data. This could be company financial reports, earnings reports, or economic data such as inflation rates or political announcements. This would be the best method for discerning quality assets for long term investments, as it’s important to be able to have confidence in an investment over time by confirming that the asset in which you’re investing your hard earned money is financially sound.

Technical Analysis is where you look at the price action data on the charts. There are several different types of charts and many different methods of technical analysis, but you only need to master a few to be a successful trader – even mastering one method will return profitable results if you stick to the trading plan without deviation. This looks at historical price data on charts relating to different time frames from 1 minute up to weeks and months of price data per candle, and provides insightful information about likely areas, or zones, where the markets are likely to react from and change direction. This is where technical analysis provides numerous trading opportunities – in recognising patterns, and in understanding how the mechanics of the markets are structured.

Ultimately, you’ll probably end up favouring one over the other and this will govern how you build and execute your trading plan.

Trading Psychology

“Success is 20% mechanics, 80% psychology”

– Tony Robbins

Trading psychology is without a doubt the hardest part of trading to master. Never mind all the charts, terminology and financial data – mastering your mind, your discipline and your emotions trumps them all.

The effect a losing trade can have on our psychology can be profound, and for most is what leads to emotional trading that generates massive losses and even wipes out people’s entire trading accounts. Emotional trading is a big NO, and this is the single most important reason for having and using a detailed trading plan. Having a written plan that details exactly what your methods are, and specifies your researched and back tested criteria for entering and exiting trade positions, will remove the need to make any decisions when you have money on the line. It’s when you have money riding on an open position that your primal croc brain starts to fuck with you and allowing this to take over your thinking when trading is the beginning of the end for most traders.

You have to learn to be your own trading coach and mentor – or go out and find someone who can fulfil that role for you. The best resource I’ve come across so far that really helped me gain control of my psychology when trading and which has helped me to remove all emotional trading from my trades was the following book by Brett N. Steenbarger:

This book gave me all the tools I needed to understand the inner workings of my own psychology when it came to trading, and indeed gave me skills which transferred over into others areas of my life such as sport and business. A really excellent book, and highly recommend – in fact, it’s a must if you’re thinking of embarking on the journey of learning to become a financial trader. Without it, the risk of your emotions taking control and devastating your trading account is all too real.

The stock market, by it’s very nature, goes up and down in cycles. As I hope I’ve shown in this short blog, there are the vehicles available today that allow everyone with access to a computer, smart phone or tablet and an internet connection to trade on the financial markets. Most platforms come with free virtual trading accounts that allow you to trade the markets in the first instance with fake money. This provides the opportunity for gaining valuable experience in the stock market, watching and learning how it moves, and means you can try out new techniques, systems or adjustments to your trading plan without putting any of your hard earned capital at risk. Once you see that you are consistently generating profits over a period of several months, you can then begin trading with real equity with some degree of confidence that you know what you’re doing and have a trading system that is profitable when followed with discipline.

Everyone has the ability to be financially free by taking the time to learn this skill, and doing so is going to not only put your future in your hands, but also has the potential to return significantly on capital invested – more so than any bank or other financial institution is going to give you that’s for sure.

From Beginner to Trader

I will be running a ‘From Beginner to Trader’ course around the Oswestry/Welshpool area very soon for anyone who is interested in learning about how to trade the stock market using the instruments I’ve described in this blog. The course will take a complete beginner who knows nothing about the stock market and trading through learning the skills needed to become a profitable trader. Course material will be provided in a live training environment, and you will come away from the training session with:

  1. A solid understanding of the mechanics of how the stock market and it’s various instruments work and move
  2. A solid understand of both fundamental and technical analysis, and strategies for utilising both methods in your trading
  3. A tool box full of tried and tested technical indicators for providing high probability entry and exit points for your trades
  4. A trading plan for intra-day trading on the 5-minute time frame
  5. A trading plan for swing-day trading on the higher time frames (4 hour, daily, weekly)
  6. A trading plan for pattern trading according to price action and technical indicators, as well as a thorough understanding of what key support and resistance levels are and how to define them on your charts
  7. How to buy and sell assets tax free – both through leveraged instruments and through physical stocks and shares
  8. A road map for finding quality shares for longer term investment
  9. An understanding of the emerging crypto-currency markets and how to maximise trading profits trading these alternative currencies
  10. A risk management strategy that will stop you blowing your account and that will keep your trading equity protected by minimising your losses and maximising your profits
  11. An understanding of the importance of psychology in trading, and techniques for mastering your emotions when engaged in live trades

Financial freedom is the ultimate goal – to every day have the choice of what you do, where you do it, and who you do it with. No constraints, no limits, no worries.

The beautiful thing about that? That the more people there are in the World who have that level of freedom and choice in their lives, the more people there will be in the World who have the desire and capability to help everyone else up to that level.

I’d love to see you on my ‘From Beginner to Trader’ trading course as I know it will change the way you think about money, and it has the potential to change your life if you implement the lessons you will learn in the course. Please register your interest by completing the contact form below, and I’ll send you an e-mail with all the details including how to register:

It’s MY Life

This blog is for all my fellow MMI graduates, and anyone interested in what the Millionaire Mind Intensive is all about – it was an amazing event, and if you haven’t been, you should!

 

On Sunday afternoon we were re-introduced to this song by Bon Jovi in a way I’ll never forget, and this song now holds so much potency for me that it will serve as a powerful reminder of the lessons we learned that day for the rest of my life.

 

I’ve always liked this song, however following the amazing weekend we had in London this song has become a powerful and emotive anchor for me – I will remember that Sunday afternoon vividly to the day I die; it will be my source of strength, and a potent voice reminding me that I CREATE MY LIFE. Here’s why…

 

After two and a half long days of unlearning the bullshit conditioning that prevailed in one form or another for most of the people at the event, and subsequently re-learning and re-conditioning my mind and body at a cellular level with an approach of congruent empowerment and spiritual enlightenment (yes, that’s right – money, wealth and spirituality go hand in hand), what we experienced that Sunday afternoon changed the way I view myself and my world forever.

 

That afternoon, as Marcus stood on stage and began explaining what we were about to do, my emotions (and, I imagine, those of everyone in the room) were running high. The energy was immense, but even that was about to be blown through the roof.

 

As the disclaimer forms were handed out for us all to sign, Marcus explained that we were all about to be provided with the ultimate opportunity to break through our bullshit limiting beliefs… we were to break a hunting arrow, with the point resting on the soft parts of our necks just above the sternum and the opposite end firmly supported against a partners hand. That’s right, we were to snap an arrow with our necks. The game was on.

 

As we patiently listened to his explanation of what was to follow I could feel the tension in the room rising. Were we really about to do this? What if it didn’t work? What if it pierced our necks, impaling ourselves on our arrows – a tool used to realise the state of death as it’s primary intended purpose? I can only speak for myself, but I’m sure my fellow graduates will agree, the mind chatter was almost intolerable. Fear was taking hold and ripping us away from ourselves, toying with us, doing everything is could – saying everything imaginable – to scare us into submission and to keep us firmly stuck where we were; knee deep in our own shit.

 

How you anything is how you do everything.

 

This was the ultimate test – and I thought walking on a bed of hot coals at UPW at the end of April was going to be a challenge!

 

So, the room of over 1000 people signed the forms and split into groups of 10, and each designated a leader for the group – I was the leader of mine. I gathered the forms to hand back to the trainers, and as I handed over our forms, I was handed back 10 arrows, a heavy duty safety glove and protective glasses for each member of my group. Shit was getting real.

 

Were we really going to do this?

 

As I handed out the arrows to each member of my group, none of us could resist the temptation of testing the point to try and get a feel for what we were about to do. Now, the point wasn’t to a fine to point, but even slightly rounded it felt very uncomfortable even testing it on the area of my neck which was to be the primary pressure point for the break. Again, the volume of the mind chatter was rising – what the fuck am I doing? What if..? What if? What if? A lot of what if’s were going through my mind – my conscious self was trying to take me out of the game, and it was a constant battle between the fear in my mind, and the courage in my heart. I knew I needed to do this, but even then I had no idea how powerful the experience was going to be.

 

You see, the minds primary role is for protection against change, derived from millennia of evolution to that end. It’s always done a fairly good job of stopping us from being eaten by large wild predators, however these days that same mechanism is mostly responsible for our ability to create our own limiting beliefs which take us out of the game of life as we squash any opportunity that comes our way which puts us outside our nice little comfort zone. The problem is, you can only grow so much in that comfortable little zone, and the people in life who achieve great things – whether that be great wealth, great feats of nature and great success – make it their life’s mission to put themselves outside their comfort zone at every opportunity.

 

As we learned over the course of the weekend, as you grow your comfort zone, you grow your money/income zone.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch 
I have found this to be true in other aspects of my life over recent years, particularly in regards to my Tae Kwon Do career, but what we were about to experience was about to calcify the truth in this statement in a way that left a lasting impression on all of us.

 

In that moment, as we stood there in our groups with our arrows and equipment, we had to make a choice – were we prepared to break through out bullshit limiting beliefs once and for all? Were we prepared to do whatever it takes? For me, the answer was a nervous, yet resounding, YES!

 

Before we could commence the exercise we had one job left to do; pick our most potent limiting belief and write it on our arrows to symbolise breaking through those beliefs as we broke through our fears and through our arrows.

 

As the martial artist in the group, and being the leader, I put on the protective glove and sat into my stance to brace the arrows for my partners. One by one they conquered their fears, showed unwavering courage, and smashed through themselves. Each and every one of us stepped up the stage, placed the point of the arrow on our necks as we had been directed, and pushed ourselves into the point.

 

We all snapped our arrows; the resulting rush of emotions and biochemicals was exhilarating, liberating and empowering as they coursed through our minds and bodies.

 

We celebrated like crazy after each person snapped their arrows, with high fives all round in recognition of each persons fortitude towards breaking through their fears and limiting beliefs. After everyone was done, the music came on full volume and the room exploded! They played Bon Jovi’s ‘It’s My Life’ and although I’ve heard that song a hundred times before, it played with so much more power and meaning that day and became a powerful anchor for the experience we had just shared together.

 

Let me tell you, being part of a group of a thousand people all operating at that level of empowerment and exhilaration was an amazing environment to be a part of, and a feeling I will never forget as long as I live.

 

What did it teach me? It taught me that fear kills dreams, and also that all we have to do to get where we want to be in life is to recognise that internal self-talk for what it is, say ‘thank you for sharing’ as we push it to one side, and move forward anyway. It taught me that dipping my toe in the waters on my dreams is painful, the same way pushing our necks against those arrows slowly and cautiously was so much more painful than pushing into it with force and congruent determination. If you’re going to do something in life, then fucking do it – don’t dip your toe in the waters of your dreams, jump the fuck in and go for a swim. Immerse yourself in your dreams, and immerse yourself in the attainment of them. Push straight into the arrows in your life – your dreams and goals – and do so with power, purpose and passion.

 

It reminded me that I can do whatever I decide I want to do, it reminded me that the only person responsible for creating my life is me. I make my own opportunities, I decide who I am going to be, and I decide what level I play at when working towards my dreams and goals. I am the sole person responsible where I am right now, and I am the only one who can change that – all it takes is making a choice to step outside that comfort zone, say thank you for sharing to my mind and its attempts to protect me from success by keeping me in my comfort zone, and to do the work that speaks to my heart by playing all out, full on, at 110%.

 

It was also a powerful reminder of how important it is to have a good team around you, whether in life or in business. Having my strong team around me providing their unwavering support and cheering me on only served to add to my resolve and helped to calcify my belief in my ability to succeed. The power of having a good team around you cannot be understated in anything you do, and this powerful lesson was a healthy reminder of that fact. We shared our apprehensions and fears, and we shared our success – supporting my fellow team mates as they broke their arrows, and celebrating with them was almost as powerful and rewarding as completing the exercise myself – another important lesson; the fruits of success aren’t just derived from our own achievements, but also from serving others and being a part of their success. After all, what’s the point of developing ourselves if we don’t then use our new found power, skills and abilities to help others do the same, to help others rise to their challenges, overcome them and win the day. Your own personal success is only part of the equation, the other part is the role we play in the success of others.

 

This experience changed my life; it taught me so much about who I am, and who I have the potential to be. It taught me that I am responsible, and I have the power to create whatever life I want – all I have to do is recognise, understand and push through my fears and limiting beliefs, to step outside of my familiar zone of comfort, and do whatever it takes, within moral and legal boundaries, to create the opportunities in my life that will deliver me to the success I dream of.

 

And do you know what’s particularly exciting about this? Everyone can do it, all it takes is a choice.

 

Check out the song below, and have an amazing day:

 

 

Edit: Here’s a photo of the remains of the arrow I talk about in this blog – I’ve stuck it atop my computer at work to serve as a perpetual reminder of the experience and what I learned. I said I would post a photo in the comments, but am not able to do so which is why I’m posting it here at the end of the article.

Jamie Keeling Little Grey JK Arrow Break

Remnants of my arrow from the arrow break exercise – MMI 31/03/17 to 02/04/17

 

 

Take Responsibility for Where You Are

“The moment you take responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you can change anything in your life”

– Hal Elrod

One of the biggest societal challenges we face in this modern, often faceless, digital World is a complete lack of accountability. This is mainly the result of a lot of people in society – I would argue most from my own personal experience – being completely unwilling to take responsibility for themselves, their decisions and actions, and ultimately taking every opportunity to blame external forces as a way of explaining away the point at which they find themselves in their lives, and why they aren’t where they want to be.

These people are lying to themselves.

I tend to hear the same old excuses time and time again – I don’t have time, I can’t afford it, I’m not qualified, I haven’t got the right education, I don’t know the right people.

All nothing more than excuses, and when you hear someone speak in this way it’s usually the first tell tale sign that they are ignorantly drifting through life on a whim and a prayer whilst blaming others for their misfortunes or lack of opportunity. For goodness sake, please don’t be one of those people.

Do you think you would hear those excuses from someone society would deem to be classed as ‘successful’? No chance.

You have the same number of hours available to you each day as Richard BransonElon Musk and Warren Buffet. You don’t need money to make money, so ‘I can’t afford it’ is not a valid excuse – Robert Kiyosaki and his wife started with nothing, living out of a beaten up old car for weeks when they first started their journey as entrepreneurs, and yet they are now multi millionaires with international businesses that help educate people worldwide. Besides, most people who use the excuse of having no money usually still spend money on liabilities that they don’t need (like the latest technological gadgets, and generally bigger and better material belongings) so it’s more a case of their operating on a values hierarchy that is out of alignment with their desired outcome. If someone values partying at the weekend more than investing in their future then they won’t ever have any money spare to invest in themselves because that isn’t a high enough priority in their values hierarchy (yet they still complain at every opportunity about how life isn’t fair and the system is out to get them).

Don’t get me wrong, there are most certainly many underprivileged people in the world – even today in the 21st century – and for clarity, I am not talking about these people (though the same principals can apply, just in vastly different circumstances and at a different scale). I’m talking about the guy down the street who earns £60,000 a year and still complains that he doesn’t have enough money, that he hates his job and that there’s nothing he can do about it because the system has him held to ransom. I’m talking about the people who complain that immigrants are taking all their jobs leaving their landscape of opportunity a barren waste land of hopelessness and despair, whist simultaneously denouncing those same immigrants for sapping the country through their unjust benefit claims. Well, which is it – are they stealing our jobs or sucking the country’s benefits system dry and sending all the money overseas? When you hear someone making claims such as these, it’s an early warning sign that whoever you’re talking to is desperately grasping at any excuse they can find to explain why they’re not responsible for the situation they are in.

The sad thing that people with such attitudes seem to fail to realise is that by taking this approach – that being the approach of blaming everyone but yourself for your failings and shortcomings – they are disempowering themselves, and removing their control over the direction their lives are taking. These people are not directing their own lives – their lives are directing them. They believe that in order to be happy they have to control things that cannot be controlled – like other people behaviour – rather than seeing that the only person they need to master control over is themselves. This is a surefire way to leave yourself feeling like a victim of life’s whims, with no way to change anything in your life for the better. Hell, most people have never even given any thought to where they want to be or what their end goal is, so how on Earth do they expect to get to a destination, or travel a life path, that leaves them happy and fulfilled when they don’t know what makes them happy and fulfilled? Most people understand that if you get in your car without knowing where you’re going you’re unlikely to get to a destination you find desirable – you’ll get to a destination, but without the proper route planning it’s pot luck as to whether you end up somewhere you want to be or not. Unfortunately, this is how most people seem to be living their lives – no direction, no responsibility and no congruent focus.

I cannot control what others say to me, but I can control what I say to others. I cannot control the economy, but I can control my investments in a way that evolves as the markets evolve, I cannot change a bank’s decision to reject an application for a loan but I can control my thinking in such a way that I allow myself to consider what other options are available thus increasing my resourcefulness and therefore increasing the resources available to me. I cannot control the way things are in the World, but I can control my perception of those those things and make an effort to learn something from each situation that allows even the biggest challenges and setbacks to add value to my life. Focus on controlling what you can and being aware of and learning from the rest, rather than focusing on the things you can’t control and allowing those things to define you.

Do you see now how ridiculous it is to blame circumstances outside your control for what you perceive as your life’s shortcomings? The first step to changing this is to accept the things you cannot change and have the courage to change the things you can. It is the realisation that although you have no control over what life throws at you, you have every control over how you react to it. For example, if someone verbally insults you then you have a choice; you can’t change that fact that someone has verbally insulted you, but you can decide how you react to it and thus whether you give that event any power over your life. You could choose to get really upset and return some verbal abuse of your own, and then spend the rest of the day complaining to everyone you see about how vile people are and how the youth of today are moronic thugs. You could pick the victim mentality, and ask self-defeating questions like, ‘why do people hate me?’, ‘why can’t I even walk down the street without people hurling abuse at me?’, and ‘this always happens to me’. self-deprecation gets us nowhere, and has an immense power to instantly put you in one of the most unresourceful states imaginable. When this happens, we find ourselves with a lack of resources and therefore do not have the tools we need to achieve the results we desire.

Read that last bit again, but backwards; we aren’t getting the results we desire, because we don’t have the tools to achieve those results, and we don’t have the tools because we chose to react negatively to an externally driven situation and put ourselves in an unresourceful state.

An example of how we might be unresourceful following the example detailed above, is that because of our negative self talk we have put ourselves in a depressed state where we feel valueless. This results in a lack of focus on the things that are important to us, and we don’t get the results we want because we have failed to focus on the things that will get us those results – we were too busy focusing on the negative event of earlier that day, allowing it to negatively shape our thoughts, degrade our view of our own self-worth and infect every action that followed by diverting our focus and attention away from what’s important to us. Successful people realise that when that happens it’s because of a choice they made and they take responsibility – not only that, but they are highly self-aware and because they have taken responsibility they empower themselves to make the necessary changes in their life to grow from the experience and to do better next time. Unsuccessful people blame others, and as a result give themselves no opportunity to learn from the experience and grow from it emotionally. What they fail to see is that it is they who have taken away their own opportunity for growth!

Conversely, someone who gives no power to negative events, but instead makes every effort to see the lesson in them, no matter how hard that may be sometimes, will keep their focus on what’s important to them and will realise a level of personal growth incomparable to those who choose to adopt the ‘victim’ mentality. Those who keep their focus on the things that empower them and add value to their lives and the lives of others, whilst being aware of and learning the lessons from the challenges they face along the way, are the ones who have the most resources available to them because they make a conscious effort to exist in a resourceful state. These people don’t wait for opportunity to come knocking – they kick the door in and introduce themselves. They don’t wait for or expect someone else to make them happy of fulfilled – they see the best in everyone, take the best from every experience, and take responsibility for their own happiness and fulfilment in life. After all, allowing your happiness to be dependant on the whims of others or other external factors is a surefire way to completely give away any control you might otherwise have, leaving yourself powerless to live the life you truly want.

No one can change a challenge into an opportunity if they don’t first take personal responsibility for their lives. How can you expect to solve a problem if you don’t know there is even a problem in the first place? Be honest with yourself – it will pay dividends in the long run.

It has been a long hard road for me, and the challenges will never end, yet I take responsibility for everything in my life; good and bad. I understand that no matter what life throws at me, it is always an opportunity to learn something and to use that new knowledge to be a better person, and to give myself better tools with which to leverage my life and give me the resources I need to reach my desired outcomes. This approach to life is what gives me the ability to continuously build and adapt my own personal road map for success.

We each need our own road map, and we are each responsible for building our own from our dreams, experiences and values. I am a huge advocate of modelling successful people (a concept first introduced to me by the infamous Tony Robbins) but we are all individuals in this world and so although it is important to model others who already have a proven model for getting to where we want to be, it is also imperative to adapt the models of others in accordance with your own experiences and values so as to evolve what you learn into a road map for success that’s personalised for you as an individual. This is something I have been studying fervently for the last 4 years, and I can help you do the same. The effect that living in this way has had on my life has been nothing short of astounding – I am a million miles from the person I was even a year ago and not because I have changed as such, but because I have taken the best bits of who was an evolved them into being even better whilst taking the bits I wasn’t happy with and evolving them into things that work for me rather than against me.

The first step is the hardest part, but it’s the best thing you’ll ever do and once you see the results, you’ll never look back.

Take responsibility for where you are, and then take responsibility for getting to where you want to be. All it takes is a choice – everything starts in your head, and where most people fail is getting their dreams and ideas out of their heads and into reality.

If you want help getting your dreams out of your head and onto an achievable personalised roadmap to get you on the path to achieving your dreams and goals you can e-mail me at littlegreyjk@gmail.com or fill out the contact form below for a no obligation consultation.

Are You Being Honest With Yourself?

Pain is a common experience in life; one that we will all have to deal with at some point or other for a multitude of different reasons.

Pain is a symptom of some underlying cause – no one in history has woken up one and being in physical or emotional pain for no reason. There’s always a catalyst. Physical pain is usually the result of physical damage to your physical being; your body. Whether it’s cut and bruises or a broken arm, damage to your physical self will result in a pain signal being generated which triggers a heightened awareness of the damaged area (as well as notifying you that potentially serious damage has been caused) and kicks various bodily processes into gear to begin repairing the damage.

Emotional – or mental – pain is no different.

When we find ourselves experiencing emotional pain, it too is a symptom with an underlying issue as it’s cause. Whilst we are usually aware of this fact, we tend to only scratch the surface in our analysis of the problem. For example, I may be angry (anger, depression, anxiety, jealousy, envy as all forms of emotional pain – categorised as such because they are detrimental to both our mental and physical wellbeing) because of things said in an argument with someone close to me and my initial reaction would be to assess my anger as being the result of factors external to myself – the callous and untrue things the other person said to me in that argument. This though, is the first mistake.

Whenever we blame factors external to ourselves we immediately relinquish all control over the situation and our reaction to it to others – other people or other factors outside of our control. This immediately puts us into a completely unresourceful state by demanding that we adopt a victim mentality. You see this through all walks of life – if someone loses their job they blame the economy, if marriage breaks up each party more often than not blames the other, and if employees in your business fail to perform and deliver results then it’s their fault for being incompetent and lazy.

Taking this attitude is the fastest and surest way to guarantee repeated and perpetual failure; the result of which being a frustrating life filled with lack of direction and lack of fulfilment. After all, if you have given away control of your life to others by blaming everyone around you for your problems then how can you possibly hope to put yourself in a position to empower yourself to solve the challenges YOU face?

Another great example is when trying to explain someone to another person. The first reaction most people default to when trying to explain something the other person doesn’t understand is to blame them – we say things to ourselves like, ‘why is this person so stupid that they can’t grasp this simple concept?’. Notice that this again puts the blame onto the other party – but did you stop to consider that you had done a shit job of explaining it? It might make sense to you, but it’s your idea – if it doesn’t make sense to you then you shouldn’t even be talking about it outside the framework of speculation and philosophy! When we blame the other person, we end up putting ourselves in a position whereby we find ourselves banging our heads up against a brick wall as we get more and more frustrated with the other person for not understanding. This approach will more often end in a disagreement and bad feeling, and is therefore completely unproductive – even counterproductive.

However, when we shift the focus back to ourselves and take responsibility for not explaining the idea in a way that others can understand we immediately empower ourselves to do better in getting our message across. You see, you have no control over others – but you have every control over yourself (or at least you should be aiming to achieve this level of self control).

“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is!”

Take ownership. Take Responsibility. You and you alone are responsible for your life and how you deal with what it chooses to throw at you. There is value in everything, and it’s your job to find it.

It is this lack of ownership that causes people to experience emotional pain, and it’s a direct result of not being honest with yourself. In the example above, I am not being honest with myself if I blame the other person’s apparent stupidity before first looking within. I am relinquishing control over that element of my life to forces I have no control over because I am not being honest with myself about my ability to explain my idea. It’s the easy way out to blame others, it’s a lot hard to be introspective and self-critical in the way I have described. No one likes to admit fault or being wrong, yet it is one of the most important skills you can learn to set yourself up for massive success in life.

No matter what life throws at you, or what situations you find yourself in, it is so important to take ownership for how you got there in the first place to empower you and give yourself the tools you need to get the best out of each situation. You must be honest with yourself, as if you can do this consistently it will be sure to drastically reduce the amount of emotional pain you feel throughout life. When you feel emotional distress or pain, go deep. Go past the situation that appears to be the cause of the problem, and look at the underlying causes that sit behind it. Ask yourself, ‘am I being honest with myself about the details of this situation, and am I taking ownership of my role in this? Am I blaming others when I should be looking at how I could have handled that situation better?’

Life really is whatever we make it, but there is a level of ownership and responsibility that comes with learning how to build the lives we desire. Pain is a clue that there are things in your life that are out of alignment with your core values. It is a clear signal of a severe lack of congruence between the way you think a situation is and the way it actually is. With this in mind, use pain for the purpose it was designed for – to increase your introspective awareness of yourself and how you are interacting with your environment so you can take ownership and move forward. Pain is a clue, and a big red flag that most people fail to address because they have surrendered their power to do so to the situation itself. Take the hint, and look at yourself and the part you play more deeply.

So many people spend their lives looking outside themselves for the answers to their questions when all the answers they need they can find within themselves if they bother to look. It is in the ability to do this – be self-observant and introspective – where true personal power is realised, and this power potential exists in all of us. The only difference between us is our motivation to put feet to the dirt and ask the tough questions of ourselves to uncover and harness it in all it’s glory.

You might get away with lying to others, but you can never lie to yourself.

If you do one thing in life – be honest with yourself.

You’re Either Growing Or You’re Dying

You’re either growing or dying – there really is no middle ground.

Whilst it may seem like we’re neither growing nor dying due to a lack of noticeable motion towards one or the other, that sense of static is nothing more than the illusion of stillness resulting from a temporary equilibrium in your movement between each polar opposite. To say it another way, you are dying equally as much as you are growing, and the result is the illusion of stillness. Maybe if you were able to measure your movement towards growth and death at a smaller scale, you would see that you’re not still at all, but always moving towards one or the other.

Unless we make a conscious effort to make progress towards our growth, the default of death and decay takes over. It’s so important to pump life into our actions – passion and purpose – because without this life force injection, everything slows down and stops. When you stop, you die. You’re heart STOPS beating. Your nervous system STOPS transmitting or receiving. Your brain STOPS thinking. The more life you can put into each action, the movement you will conjure and the more alive you will be able to be. Movement is life, and movement thought of in a different way is simply perpetual change.

Change is the only thing that’s guaranteed in life, and change is what keeps us alive.

I’ve never understood people who are afraid of change, and who find themselves unwilling to move with the motion of life’s natural flow. It is what gives us energy, it defines the very nature of our existence. Change should be embraced, because change is overflowing with potential power waiting to be harnessed. When things change, you make a choice to either focus on the loss or the new opportunity – with every change comes fresh new opportunities. Are you going to wallow in an non-resourceful state as a result of the way you have chosen to view a given situation, or are you going to take off the blinkers by accepting the situation for what it is and opening your mind to new opportunities?

The wings of change can be a lot of different things, but one thing is guaranteed – they will always be there to drive motion into our lives. Accept that, learn to move with them, and you will find it much easier to jump into life’s flow. Flow is an amazing state – one I have personally experienced in both my career as a musician and as a martial artist. It is a state of being completely at one with the Universe, with no thought, yet acutely aware of, and connected to, everything. It is a sense of knowing deeper than any other I have ever experienced. It is a feeling of connection, gratitude and acceptance so deep and powerful that it’s a million times more potent an experience than any drug on the market. There is nothing like it.

If you’re interested in the subject of flow and want to learn more, I highly recommend the following book by Steven Kotler where he delves deep into the subject of flow states and how super athletes have been tapping into these states of decades to push the limits of human potential (click the picture below for more information):

The principal of being either in a state of growth or a state of dying is applicable to all aspects of life. It is as true for the muscles in our bodies, as it is for business and for our mental fortitude.

If we lift weights and exercise, then we are building muscle by facilitating muscle growth through movement and by making the muscles we want to grow do work. However, if we stop lifting weights or exercising then we will see our muscle mass decrease as our muscles atrophy as a direct result of a lack of sufficient levels of exercise or movement. Now, as described earlier, it may be that our muscle mass and relative strength stay at a consistent level but this does not mean it’s neither growing nor dying. All this means is that you are doing sufficient levels of work through movement and exercise to facilitate the same level of growth as the level of atrophy – the result being neutral overall. The muscle is still atrophying, and it is still growing; you just don’t see the physical effects of either because one is balanced out by the other.

This principal can also be applied to business. A business is either growing, or it is dying. Now, a business can be growing in different areas at different times, and this doesn’t mean that in order for a business to be successful it has to be growing all aspects of it’s operations all the time, at the same time. For example, you may focus on increasing – or growing – your turnover during the first two quarters, and then switch your growth focus to systems and processes so they can be developed to support the new turnover level. You may then chose to shift your growth focus to your team, or asset base. Even though the growth focus shifts to different areas of the business during different parts of it’s life cycle, the nett effect is the same – the business is growing in one way or another.

It is important to ensure that you cycle your growth focus in your business as described above, especially if you don’t have the physical resources to grow every aspect of the business at once. If you leave one area of the business behind whilst you grow others – for example, growing your turnover without growing the systems and processes to support it – you will be setting yourself up for a mighty crash. Trust me – I know from experience by having had to take this hard road in my business.

Think of your business like the building in which it resides; if you simply carry on with your day to day business and make no effort to undertake general repairs and maintenance to the building, over the years it will deteriorate and, if no work is undertaken to remedy the effect of time, will crumble back into the Earth. However, if you carry out the periodic maintenance, repairs and improvements as required, not only will you continue to occupy a premises that meets the needs of your daily business activities, but that will also have continued to grow in value as time moves on. The point? Whether it’s HR or customer service, make sure you’re undertaking maintenance, repairs and improvements to all aspects of your business perpetually. If you’re not, someone else is, and it won’t be long before they overtake you.

This principal is also true of your cognition and mental fortitude, and can be thought of in much the same way as the analogy with the muscle. If you don’t feed your mind, it will wither and die.

“Education isn’t something you can finish.”

– Isaac Asimov

Failing to feed your mind by learning new skills, seeing new sights, and engaging in new experiences is a surefire way to result in atrophy of the mind. The more you learn, and the more effort you put into understanding the World around you, the more motion you give to your thoughts and creativity and it is this force of motion that breeds life. Want to feel more alive? Get more motion into your thoughts! Think about more things, and think about them in different ways and alternate perspectives – do it as often as possible. Nurture your natural thought processes to promote growth of the mind, and to increase it’s capacity for learning and understanding. The more we learn, the more we understand. The more we understand, the less we realise we know and the more we want to learn! A beautiful feedback loop, and a powerful one at that. The more you use your mind, the sharper a tool it will become and the more potential power you will realise that can then be used to really move the dial in your life and the World at large.

You’re either growing or you’re dying – which one are you?

Learning How To Learn

“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.”

– Brian Herbert

I am a firm believer that in this day and age, with the information highway quite literally at our fingertips, ignorance is a choice. No longer do we have the excuse of lack of resources by which to feed our minds, with the dawn of an intrinsically and globally connected human race. Got a question? Ask Google. You don’t even have to go to the library anymore – all you have to do is pull out your relatively tiny personal computer (your iPhone or android), tap the touch screen and within seconds the answer to your question appears on screen. In fact, thousands, if not millions of different answers or different versions of the answer appear on the screen! We are literally spoilt for choice.

It is for this reason that my mind is still baffled when I come across people who answer ‘I don’t know’ to a question without following it up with a Google search and discovery of the answer. How can these people be satisfied living in their ignorance? What on Earth possesses people to make the conscious choice to live in the darkness of ignorance when they have such limitless educational resources available to them? I’m still searching for the answer… maybe ignorance really is bliss. Regardless, mastery doesn’t come without a deep knowledge of a given subject, and mastery is what I’m all about. Learning, and constant never ending improvement is so important to me because of the unfathomably positive effect it has had on my life over the last few years, and continues to have to this day. There are few things more empowering than listening to an audio book on the way to work that teaches you something that you can implement in your life the second you arrive at work and start your day; instant added value, and I love adding value.

Learning is easy for some, and not so easy for others. One type of learning, say practical experience, is natural to one person, yet completely unnatural to someone who could be considered an academic.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish on it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it is stupid.”

– Albert Einstein

The above quote from dear Albert is so true, and does an excellent job of highlighting the main issue with the educational institutions we have built to educate the generations that follow in our footsteps. All said and done, we’ve done a pretty shit job of catering for the widely diverse range of characters, skill sets and natural abilities and tendencies of our young. It’s a one size fits all approach to education, and it’s destroying the hearts and minds of young people the World over. They are told that if they fail in this ‘one size fits all’ system, then they will fail in life.

What a crock of shit.

My father left school with but two O-levels, and heaps of tenacity, drive and passion for electronics. He has built several businesses during his lifetime, including his most recent, The Studio People. Was it his two O-levels that facilitated such achievements? Doubtful. Was it his persistent drive, passion and tenacity? Absolutely. Perhaps we should shift the developmental focus of the next generation of thinkers and World leaders then to teaching those things that made my Dad successful, and indeed the same characteristics and attributes that resulted in the success of all the great entrepreneurs over the last few decades; Richard BransonElon Musk and Anthony Robbins to name but a few. It wasn’t GCSE’s or A-levels that got them to where they are today, it was their fiery passion fuelled tenacity, and as these men have demonstrated, it is these attributes that give them the power to go out and change the World as we know it.

Understanding why we need to perpetually educate ourselves and others, and understanding what to learn is one thing, but how to learn is something I haven’t seen covered a great deal and was something I struggled with in my earlier years of life. I never thought I was that bright, but I always seemed to have this uncanny ability to pick things up very quickly once my interest had been piqued. I often found myself frustrated though when I’d try to get into learning something new and would be left feeling like I was studying something that was written in a foreign language. I’d study a paper or read an exercise and one or two things would kind of make sense to me, but in the context of the whole, the information was nothing more than gibberish.

This experience left me feeling like I was of less than average intelligence, despite my ability to learn quickly and often discouraged me. Good job I’m a particularly tenacious individual, and that I don’t like to lose.

Self-knowledge and learning in general has been a massive part of my life over the last 3-4 years, and it’s opened doors for me in my life like you wouldn’t believe. I managed to figure out how I learn, and what the process and mechanism entails for me. I am very mechanical in my approach to things, and so I like to breaks things down into easily digestible pieces. I also love a challenge, so have no problem throwing myself in at the deep end of a completely new subject and seeing how I fare. The difference for me now is that I know it will be a challenge, and I’m expecting it. I have realised and accepted over the last few years that when I first start digging into a subject, I understand fuck all; but more importantly, I know that this is the first step to me understanding a bit, then a little and then a lot. Each of these steps in so important in the attainment of mastery in any skill or subject, and for me it was just a case of accepting that this is how I learn.

So, when I delving into something new, I know I have to find it stimulating and interesting. It has to challenge me, and it has to add some value to my life. I also know, and more importantly accept, that I won’t understand very much when I first start the learning process, and that even if I do understand the wealth of information I’m digesting, it is highly unlikely that I will retain a high percentage of it at first. These things that I once used to find demoralising and frustrating, have become part of the process of learning for me, and my acceptance of them as important parts of the puzzle to get me to where I want to be has been liberating and helps to keep me motivated and driven.

It might take several books, articles and conversations with experts before I start to grasp some of the basic concepts, but I trust in the fact that over time, so long as I stick at it and keep digesting information in my chosen field, that clarity and understanding will come. I’ve observed this process in my learning over many years now, and it is this self-observation that gives me the faith and confidence that, even though I feel like I’m getting nowhere to start with, I am building the foundations of knowledge in the subject before I can start to build the structure above of knowledge and understanding. As with building a house and looking upon the work from afar, you see nothing whilst the foundations are being dug and laid. It is only when the walls start to go up that you start to notice the progress and start to see the structure coming together before your eyes.

Don’t be afraid of laying the foundations, and don’t put yourself down because you’re ‘not getting it’. You won’t, at first, and that is the first and most important step to learning new skills and subjects. Knowing and accepting this is the best way to clear your mind so it is free from negativity and thus able to focus fully on the task at hand; being a better version of you through the attainment of knowledge.

Don’t be afraid of learning in different ways too; my MMA instructor once said to me that people learn in three different ways, and each of those ways will teach you things the others cannot. They are to be told/shown, to do, and to teach. You must learn a subject or skill through each of these mediums in order to achieve true mastery and a complete knowledge in any given interest. The teaching part usually comes last, because you need to be able to explain and demonstrate a skill yourself before you can possibly consider teaching it, yet you go into teaching prior to achieving mastery, because it is only through completing this third and final stage that you are taught the final lessons by way of seeing your existing knowledge in a new light, from a different angle/perspective. I’ve learned things about throwing basic kicks from teaching white belts that I could never have learned from being shown or actually performing them myself, though this is an element of the journey of growth and self-improvement that is often neglected by practitioners, and because they fail to embrace this ever such important part of the learning process, they never achieve true mastery. So, if you are a student of anything in life, remember that the very act of your teacher teaching is providing a lesson for them too – they are learning about the subject from a different perspective now, opening their minds to a deeper understanding of their subject/skill and putting them one step closer to mastery.

Everyone I know or have studied who has mastered something in their lives has taught others and realises this to be a key element of their own process of learning and self-discovery. This should serve to highlight the importance of ‘paying it back’ in life, and servitude to others, helping others be better versions of themselves, is the third and final step in the process of helping yourself. Everything is cyclical, everything is connected – service to others is so important. We owe it to ourselves to facilitate our attainment of mastery in our lives, we owe it to others to learn through their experiences what we were unable to learn through our own, and we owe it to the World and the generations that follow to ensure we have an army of masters in their respective fields to push the human race forward so that we, as a race, are perpetually committed to doing things better than we have previously done them. We have an obligation to ourselves and to our children to leave the World a better place than we found it – learning and teaching help us to bridge that gap.

Remember, we’re all geniuses; we just need to do the work to figure out what sort, and once found to pursue it with passion and tenacity. Together, we are changing the World – what part are you playing?

“We have a moral obligation to leave this World a better place than the World that we’ve found.”

– Tim McIlrath

What Black Belt Means to Me

“The martial arts are ultimately self-knowledge. A punch or a kick is not to knock the hell out of the guy in front, but to knock the hell out of your ego, your fear, or your hang-ups.”

– Bruce Lee

I began my training in the martial art of Tae Kwon Do in July 2013 – I remember it clearly, as the weekend I had planned to attend my first lesson was the weekend of the 2013 TAGB TKD World Championships. As a result, my first introductory lesson was the weekend after the big competition due to all the students and instructors attending the event. My instructor to be, Mr Martin Williams 6th Dan, told me about the event and that his club was closed that weekend due to their participation, but that I should come along and have a go the weekend after. I vividly remember thinking to myself at the time that there was no way I’d be competing, let alone be competing at the World Championships; the biggest event in the organisation.

I was very clear about my intentions going in; I wasn’t going to fight and I wasn’t going to compete. I was a complete pacifist at the time, and my motivation for wanting to give it a go was simply that it looked like fun and I thought I’d be good at it. In truth, the motivating factor that made me get up off my arse and find a club was that someone had posted a classic Bruce Lee video to my Facebook wall, and it inspired me to desire that level of greatness. It was a compilation of his different skills, from lighting matchsticks in mid air with nunchucks and his infamous 1-inch punch. From the moment I concluded my search for local clubs, bizarrely finding Mold to be my closest which is a good 45 minute drive from where I live, fate took control and the rest is history.

To say that Tae Kwon Do has changed my life would be an understatement of epic proportions. I met my soul mate through my club, and we now have two beautiful children together. It’s changed my whole outlook on, and approach to, life. It’s made me a better person in a multitude of ways, and for all the change it’s brought to my life I am truly grateful. Further to all that, it has provided me with a close knit circle of thoroughly decent human beings who are dedicated to helping raise each other up to higher and higher standards, with perpetual dedication, love and support. The people I have met through Tae Kwon Do are some of the most wonderful human beings on the planet, and I am privileged to call them my friends.

The most important thing that Tae Kwon Do has done for me that has been a catalyst for my personal growth has been to introduce me to myself. I know who I am better today than any prior point in my life. I know who I am, and more importantly I know the components of who I am. I know my fears and insecurities intimately, even as deeply as I know my capacity for love, compassion and servitude. I am rounded as a human being because of the deep level of self-knowledge my art has taught me. I know who I am in good times and bad times, I face adversity on a regular basis and that keeps me hungry and humble. I have such a profound level of respect for the people around me, and I  have a deep level of understanding of vastly different types of people and cultures as a result of the principals behind the punches and kicks I’ve been drilling for the last 3.5 years. As with the words of Bruce Lee in the quote at the start of this blog, the opponent is not the man stood across the ring – it’s the man within.

This is a concept my parents and some of my colleagues struggle to understand. Unless you have engaged in some form of martial art, it’s unlikely you’ve come across the life lessons that teach what is required to understand this. One of my favourite quotes is, ‘adversity introduces a man to himself’, and in my opinion, this couldn’t be more concise or more profound. The truth behind this one statement has the power to shatter your world as you know it… only for it to be reborn like the phoenix from the ashes. You know that people you talk to don’t get it when they say things like, ‘so you like fighting’ or ‘you just like beating people up’ – nothing could be further from the truth. A more accurate appraisal would be that I thrive in testing my level of skill and knowledge in a high risk environment because I know that to fail is to learn, and learning is the only way transmute the current version of myself into something better. I am testing my nerve every time I make myself step into the ring – I am facing my fear and my insecurities with that one simple, defying act. I am fueling the fire of confidence and knowledge of self by relentlessly feeding it my fears, my ego and my insecurities.

This coming April in 2017 marks a penultimate point in my journey to self-knowledge as a man and as a martial artist. This April, I grade for my Black Belt. For most, the minimum amount of time it takes to achieve this is 4 years, largely dependant on how much effort you put in and how often you grade. I have been driven to succeed since day one. Following my first class, I would go home and practise the most basic movements for hours at home to try and get the techniques down for my next lesson so I could turn up ready to learn more. I entered my first competition at yellow belt in October 2013, and came away with two gold trophies for my efforts. So much for never competing…

Today, 3.5 years later, I sit here a current World Champion and British Champion, along with several other titles from regional and national competitions across the country. I am lucky enough to have shelves (yes, plural!) filled with trophies and medals from my last 3 years of competition. I am honoured and privileged to have been taught by some of the best Tae Kwon Do practitioners in the World, often training with or under World and National Champions. The people I have trained with and under the instruction of, have helped me immeasurably to become the man I am today; instructors, students and competitors alike. They have provided the proving ground on which I was able to test myself against the best in the business, and the quality instruction that has guided me along the right path when I have wandered wayward. Everyone around me inspires me, filling me with gratitude; that is a truly beautiful place to be.

Now, I’ve seen a lot of people get their Black Belts over the last 3.5 years, and it’s been a wonderful vicarious experience for me to watch and be a part of their individual journey’s – as they have been, and continue to be, a part of mine. Becoming a black belt means different things to different people. For some it is just something they want for display – like a trophy that they can point to to prove how amazing they are. For others, it is a deeply symbolic achievement that says more about the person within than it necessarily says about their ability to kick people in the face.

For me, being a Black Belt comes with a high level of responsibility to respect and serve those around you; whether you like them or not. It is the difference between existing on a meandering and random trajectory through life, and living with purpose and meaning. It is a reminder that I need to do better tomorrow, regardless of how well I thought I did today. It is my commitment to serve and to make a positive difference in the lives of all who pass through my life. It is commitment to constant and never ending improvement, to mastery and excellence. It is my reminder to never give up, and to see the lesson in everything. It is my heart wrapped around my waist, it is the symbol of passion and purpose that I wear with pride and humility. It is the balance of my calm and my rage, my love and my hate – we are all composed of yin and yang, and it is balancing the two that delivers us to self-knowledge and acceptance of who we are and what we have. It reminds me to be grateful every single day – for the beautiful people in my life, for my health and for the important lessons life teaches us; be they easy or hard. I do not prey for an easier life, I work hard to ensure I have the ability and skills to endure a challenging one as I know that it is through challenge that we grow to become greater versions of ourselves. It is a symbol signifying a deep level of self-knowledge, and of understanding that bridges the chasms between our joys and our fears.

For me, being a Black Belt has nothing to do with the colour, the material or being able to kick people in the face. It represents integrity, perseverance, respect, self-control and courtesy. It represents never giving up, even when you feel like there is no way out, and nowhere to go. It is a deep level of strength more powerful than any muscle could ever be, yet it is as soft as a feather. It is the ability to mould to fit any challenge, and the knowledge that everything in life happens for a reason – each experience a package of lessons ready to be learned.

Yet, despite all this, I know that getting my Black Belt is just the end of the beginning. Like learning to drive and getting your licence, the real learning happens out on the road on your own after you’ve passed your test. That is when you find out what you’re made of.

My journey in Tae Kwon Do and in life has only just begun.

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

As some of you will know, I have become deeply interested in trading the stock market via instruments like CFD’s and Spread Betting over the last couple of months. Whilst I am still achieving mixed results in terms of my overall profit and loss, one of the most challenging and interesting aspects of trading is the psychology. It is actually the hardest thing to master, and I believe this is true for most things in life. Holding your position on a trade that’s moving against you without giving in to your fear of losing money, or of diminishing any paper profits you might have made on that particular position, takes some serious self control.

I have engaged in trading courses, YouTube videos and books to help me improve on my knowledge of the stock market and how to trade with a consistently profitable system, but one of the books I’m listening to at the moment has really made me think. It’s a book on trading psychology, and aims to enable the reader to become their own trading coach. You can see more information about this book by clicking the following link:

The Daily Trading Coach: 101 Lessons for Becoming Your Own Trading Psychologist (Wiley Trading)

I was listening on my way to Tae Kwon Do training last night, and a very poignant lesson caught my attention and made me think. When trading, as with most things we do in life, we tend to have a running commentary of self talk as we run through our day. That self talk can either be positive or negative depending on our mental state at the time. One thing that tends to be particularly debilitating is negative self talk. Whether you’re berating yourself for missing a turning when driving to work which could potentially make you late, or in the case of the book, have entered into a bad position which results in a losing trade. The observation the author makes in the book is that this self talk tends to be very harsh, and so he suggests the following exercise; pay attention to the self talk going on in your head – observe the mental tone, the language used and the things you are berating yourself for. Now, having observed this negative chatter in some detail, reframe. This is a simple exercise whereby you imagine that instead of saying those things to yourself, a friend or colleague is saying them to you.

For example, you might say something like the following to yourself having missed a crucial turn off to get you to work on time:

“I can’t believe I missed that turning, I’m such an idiot! I drive this way every day and I can’t even get that right! I’m going to be late for work now, and it’s all because I couldn’t even pay attention to my surroundings. I’m going to get in trouble for being late, and be behind on my work because of my stupidity. Nice one.”

Now, this may seem like perfectly normal self talk that occurs when you make a mistake in life, but I think we can all agree that this level of negativity, even in the form of self talk, is far from healthy; it puts us into a totally unresourceful state and we are only at our best when we are in a positive and resourceful state. However, now let’s reframe this situation and imagine that it is your friend who is in the car with you who is saying this to you:

“I can’t believe you missed the turn, you’re such an idiot! You drive this way every day and you still can’t get it right! You’re going to be late for work now and it’s all your fault because you aren’t even capable of paying attention to what’s going on around you. You’re going to be in so much trouble for being late, and you’ll be behind on your work because of your stupidity. Nice one.”

When you flip the roles like this, and imagine a friend or someone close to you saying to you the things you say to yourself, you would be disgusted with the way they had spoken to you and treated you. They’re supposed to be your friend, so why are they putting you down like that? So, the question is this; if you wouldn’t tolerate being spoken to or treated in that way by the people you know, then why do you tolerate it from yourself?

Truth be told, if you have good friends and surround yourself with good people who truly add value to your life, they would never treat you that way. You shouldn’t either! Instead, your friend or colleague would tell you not to worry about it, it was a simple and easy mistake to make and if you’re late you can just say you got stuck in an unexpected bout of traffic. Your boss won’t mind, he’s a decent person, and everyone makes mistakes. It’s early in the morning, and no one is at their best first thing. Don’t sweat it!

A big difference, as I’m sure you’ll agree. Which would you prefer to hear from your friends or colleagues? Decide now, that if that’s the standard you have set for how others treat you, then you should have the same standard for the way you treat yourself. Another way of looking at it would be to ask yourself what you would say to a friend in a similar situation to that which you find yourself, and that which triggered the negative self talk. Observe the differences between what you had been saying to yourself and what you would say to your friend in the same situation; then change your internal dialogue to match what you would say to your friend. There is no good reason to treat yourself worse than you treat those around you, so level the paying field and give yourself the respect you deserve.

Don’t be so hard on yourself! Try the exercise above the next time you face a challenge in your life and you notice your own negative self talk – engage in the role play, and ask yourself if you would accept or tolerate being treated or spoken to in that way by others. If the answer is no, then you shouldn’t be treating yourself that way either.

Everyone makes mistakes in life, it’s a big part of how we learn and grow, but instead of putting ourselves down when we do, we should instead be picking ourselves up, dusting off the dirt and refocusing with determination and positivity. Easier said than done – I know – but nothing worth having in life comes easy, and reframing like this will make a massive difference in your ability to face and deal with adversity in life.

Have a beautiful day everyone – be kind to yourselves, and give yourselves the credit you deserve in both the good times, and the challenging times.

Know The Enemy & Know Yourself

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles”

– Sun Tzu

The biggest problem with problems is the unknown. The worry and anxiety that sets in, the sheer blinding panic, is not the result of an objective assessment of the situation. Instead, those debilitating feelings and emotions are the result of missing information that is preying on your mind. It’s the missing details, the depths trouble that have yet to be revealed in your mind.

You could say, the biggest battle you will ever fight will be with yourself.

As in fighting, as in life, it is not usually the case that challenges and bumps in the road are insurmountable – though this is definitely how we seem to be programmed to see them (at least, for the most part). The biggest part of any challenge is convincing yourself you are a person worthy of it. Changing your focus in line with this alternative perception allows you to have control over the challenge, and more importantly how you view the challenge and your ability to not only meet, but exceed it.

Sun Tzu was an brilliant philosopher, studied by millions across the mighty span of history. His quote featured above is as true and poignant today as it has been since it left his mind to come forth and inspire the world all those years ago. Regardless of the problem, of it’s size and scope, of it’s breadth and depth, you must know it utterly and completely – this is the only path to overcoming it and growing from it. You must stare it straight in the face and, against all odds, study it’s features. Get to know it’s character – look deep into it’s eyes. If it’s core is dark and void of hope, then go there and find out exactly how void it is. Stroke it’s face – feel the potential pain it threatens, and embrace it – whether a challenge or fear, know it until you can know it now more because this and this alone gives you power.

Now look inside yourself. You have no choice but be honest about who you are, and what you stand for – you can bullshit yourself all day long if that’s the game you want to play, but we both know where that will lead you. It takes courage to look deep inside yourself like that – to stare yourself in the face and see all that you are. I know. You will see darkness in there – it’s in all of us – and you will see the purest of light. Most people just focus on the light, whilst simultaneously ignoring the stuff they don’t like. This is naive, and the result is stunted spiritual growth. That’s not knowing yourself, that’s knowing yourself selectively and failing to take responsibility for your own personal self improvement. As a friend said to me today – “the word ‘responsibility’ literally means to be able to respond effectively”. Paying attention to, and taking responsibility for yourself as a whole and complete being is the only way to truly know thyself. Who are you when your back’s up against the wall? Do you know? Do you have any control over that person? A lot of people don’t, falling straight their primal ‘fight or flight’ response and succumbing the powerful effects of their endocrine system, and the related antiquated operating system that governed us at a time when we had to worry about being eaten by lions. By all accounts, not a state of mind that is of much use in modern day struggles, so take my advice and leave it at the door.

Know your enemy and know yourself – become one with your challenges in life and instead of defeating you they will build you up, make you stronger and help you grow. In this day and age, being ignorant is a choice; know everything, and run from nothing – be the sponge that soaks in everything life has to offer you, and use the abundance of tools available to you. Learn from everything; light and dark are equally excellent teachers, and we have much to learn from both – do not run from either. Believe in yourself – the only limits on your life are those which you impose upon it; don’t make that mistake.

The bigger the challenge the better; the bigger the challenge, the more worthy of it you are.