Not many of us have been through famines or wars or, lets be honest, any form of true scarcity. We have it all. And the side effect is that we no longer have the tools to handle failure or even perceived failure. These days when we fall we just lie on the sidewalk crying. We are turning into an army of porcelain dolls. 1
With this direct statement Neil Pasricha opens up his book You Are Awesome, which has the goal of teaching us to have resilience and not be these porcelain dolls. To do this Pasricha is going to give us nine secrets to achieving more resilience.
Pasricha’s first secret is to keep on going. Instead of a period at the end of a sentence, we need to use an ellipsis, signifying that there is more to come. One way to show this is to add the word “yet” to things you’re working on. I may say that I’m not a fast 50km runner...yet2 signifying that I can put in work and get faster.
Readers are encouraged to leave the door open for change instead of subtly showing that whatever your current state is will continue forever3.
The second secret to becoming resilient is not taking all the blame for yourself, which is a particular problem of high achievers. Instead of looking at any failure as something that you entirely own, take an objective look at the situation and be willing to spread the blame around to parts that you couldn’t control4. This is in fact something that low achievers do well, they recognize where the systems in place make it hard to achieve their dreams. Just don’t go so far as to blame “the system” for everything because that doesn’t serve you well.
We should also be willing to share our failures with others because it takes the perfect sheen off our accomplishments and gives others more license to see their failures in a positive light5.
Finally, no one is thinking about you as much as you’re thinking about you. The assumption that the inverse is true is called the spotlight effect. Just as you’re the star in your life, everyone else is the star in their own lives.
Because we are the centers of our own worlds, we believe we’re the center of everyone else’s world, too. 6
We explored similar ground in Range, as Pasricha deals with in his third secret. According to Pasricha, we think that we can see the next step in our lives, but we can’t7. We look backwards and see that we’ve changed lots, but assume that whatever is going on now will go on forever and change has stopped89. If there is one consolation in this, it’s that everyone does this, it’s not just you.
There’s no you of today without everything in your past. There’s no you of tomorrow without everything you’re going through now, either. 10
Whatever you’re going through now, it’s a step towards what you will become. Are you going to use it as a step towards traction in what you value or a step away from traction towards distraction, to steal the idea from Indistractable.
We all tell ourselves stories about the actions we take an the life we lead, the question in secret four is, is this a good story and how can we change it? One story we could tell ourselves is that we are so messy. Saying the story that way means we embody something, not that our behaviour results in the action of having a mess11. The alternate story that we can tell ourselves to help make change possible is that when we don’t put our clothes away our house gets messy.
We can change the behaviour of not putting our clothes away.
To help us change our stories Pasricha offers three questions.
The fifth secret in You Are Awesome is that some things take years of effort to succeed at, are you going to put in that effort and deal with all those loses so that you can get to success15?
...the thing so often missing from the conversation around ambitions exceeding abilities is the fact that it’s a good thing. That’s what you want! Can you imagine if everything you did was easy?16
No matter how your current work is received, you have to keep going to produce the next thing to see if that’s a success or not. If you don’t keep trying, you’re never going to find out17.
Pasricha suggests an interesting budget for “failure”. When you’re starting can you risk $20 on a domain to try an idea? Once you’re moving and have some money, can you risk a few hundred dollars on the next idea18? Don’t be afraid to loose a bit of money trying something out.
Where is the one place that you can be honest about whatever it is that you’re going through? Where can you reveal your struggles so that you have a chance to heal? We all need some place like this to vent and have a confession about our deepest secrets if we want to get to healing19.
Both Pasricha and I use our journals for this, and he has three interesting question in the morning that I’ve been trying out as well20.
Secret seven is about playing the arena’s that you can win at. It’s about not heading to the crowded beach and fighting for an inch of sand along with everyone else. It’s about finding the smallest pond you can find and then owning it.
Find one small pond where you can help people, and help21. Don’t bother chasing around in the biggest pond hoping to be noticed amongst the big fish.
Yes, yes, one way we need to get to awesome is by mastering the ability to turn off the noise from everything around us in order to sit in those little ponds of tranquility where our thoughts and ideas can scramble and Fremont and marinate and grow...22
For secret eight Pasricha highlights the importance of getting into a flow state on a single task so that we can be highly productive23. In this he echoes Indistractable, Deep Work, and Digital Minimalism.
For Pasricha’s addition to this field he suggests untouchable days. Days when you disconnect from everything and just focus on a single task. I’ve done this in the past when working on a book, booked out a single day a week and checked nothing but focused on writing all day.
For those times when you have to move your untouchable day Pasricha says that you can shift them in a week, but you can’t move them to the next week24. You must use your untouchable days, or they’re not really untouchable.
To this idea many people will say what about emergencies, how will someone get in touch with me if my phone is off25. The truth is emergencies almost never happen, and if you simply communicate where you’re going you can be reached at this location. Remember also that people existed for thousands of years without instant access to each other, no reason we can’t continue to exist like that now.
If you don’t have control of your schedule currently, look at starting with a morning or afternoon. You likely have more control that you’re willing to admit and if you’re willing to put up some barriers, more than you dreamed you had.
If you’re working with a team that just won’t disconnect, remember what they’re saying is that they’re so important that no one can get along without them. First, that’s a bit prideful and second, you should make sure that whatever team you run never gets into this state. What would happen if someone was hit by a bus?
Pasricha’s final secret is to keep moving forward. If you’re pushing in one direction that you believe in, keep going. When you hit a roadblock, don’t push harder ask yourself how to go around the roadblock. In this he echoes Ryan Holiday in The Obstacle is the Way. Don’t continue saying the same thing louder, change what you’re saying or doing so that you’re saying it differently26.
Remember that as you meet people, every connection is an opportunity. Are you taking the opportunity to meet them, learn from them, and engage with them in a way that is meaningful27? Not in a way that’s exploiting what they can do for you, but in a way that values them as people.
Looking back over the rules, I like them. The book was well written and easy to read. Pasricha used lots of stories to illustrate the points he was aiming readers at understanding. It was also a fairly quick read, so if you’re struggling you’re not looking at a huge “tome” of wisdom that will daunt you with it’s weight.
You Are Awesome is a great read with bite-sized information to help you work through whatever life is throwing at you.
PS: I was given an advanced copy of this to read.
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