I intended to post this near January 1st, but I’m obviously a little late.
Below is a list of the lessons and reminders that resonated most with me from 2018 and early 2019. I truly hope that at least one of these will resonate with you in a way that makes you pause and reflect, before moving forward.
1. In any emotional state, your breathing changes. Whether you’re angry, sad, or excited, you’re breathing will change. Learning to control your breath is your best remedy for unwanted emotions. You can see me put this in practice when I’m bowling and I leave a stone 8-pin. Credit goes to Jay Shetty for reminding me of this important lesson, which he witnessed being taught to a group of 5-year-olds on their first day of “monk school.” Imagine that you learned to control your breath, and thus your emotions, ever since you were 5 years old.
2. Viktor E. Frankl wrote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” This is definitely my new favourite quote. I believe that in that space is one of the best times to take a good, deep breath. It keeps me from throwing the ball-return hood down the lane occasionally. Credit goes to the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” book for this beautiful quote worth pondering.
3. In Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life”, he points to the idea that is best to live with one foot in order, and the other one in chaos. This was the most resonant concept of the book for me because this year, I often felt like I was walking around with a tornado spiraling around me. I felt reasonably calm but I was surrounded by chaos. There was something beautiful about it that I can’t really describe. The best way I can summarize it is: I may be walking through havoc or even hell, yet I am gaining a deeper and deeper feeling that I will be just fine. Honestly, it’s probably the breathing.
4. Multiple sources educated me about the primitive nature of our brain’s programming this year. I hadn’t spent enough time considering how our evolution was part of the reason we can be our own worst enemies. We are built for fear. We had to be, in order to survive. My favourite example of how fear sabotages our lives is one of shattered relationships. A relationship that ends painfully can lead someone to fear any further pain from future relationships. While avoiding all potential relationships is an actual solution to preventing such pain, it sabotages all potential for a relationship that is the opposite of painful. This concept holds true in every venture where there is potential for glory and failure simultaneously. I was reminded to have the courage to face my fears, and slay those dragons. In the example of relationships, if you treat everyone like they’re out to hurt you, you wind up hurting them and yourself.
5. John Assaraf’s discussion with Tom Bilyeu about the turning point in his life, brings up a question that really hit me. His mentor asked him to list all thethings he wanted in different areas of his life. Then he asked him: “Are you interested in these or are you committed?” This was a slap in the face to me, one that I needed. There are a lot of things that I am interested in having and achieving, but I am surely not committed to many of them. I’ve dreamed about winning professional bowling events, but I barely even practice. I’m interested in being rich in that I dream about it, but that is not the same as being committed. Being committed means doing whatever it takes, regardless of shitty circumstances, previous failures, perceived limitations, etc. It really gives me a new perspective on my goals. Someone who is only interested will find excuses, someone who is committed will find a way.
6. Tom Bilyeu often wears a shirt that says “Everything is my fault.” I love that. In the Toronto area, there were so many pedestrians hit by vehicles this past year that it reminded me how strongly I believe that everything is my fault. If I got hit by a car, I would blame myself for not having been aware of the fact that the driver was not aware of me. If you’re walking around, you can’t just trust the green lights and walking signals, you need to use your own awareness to make sure that everyone else is using theirs. Sure, it may be their fault for hitting you, but you can’t control them. It doesn’t serve you very well to blame them, it only serves you to consider what you can do better. Everything is your fault.
7. Seek first to understand, another concept from the 7 habits book that slapped me. It means that we often listen to respond, and not to understand. I catch myself doing this more often than I’d like, and it bothers me. It usually happens when I realize I’ve rudely cut someone off because I couldn’t contain my response. They say wise men often speak last, and a wise man definitely seeks first to understand. Knowledge speaks, wisdom listens.
8. Gary Vaynerchuk helped me become more proactive towards my health in one of his YouTube videos. It wasn’t that he told me to do it, it was just the way he talked about how people live. A lot of people will wait until they have lung cancer to quit smoking, they’ll wait until they have diabetes to monitor their sugar intake, they’ll wait until they have liver problems to quit drinking. He spoke quite enthusiastically about how it’s crazy to live that way. And he was right. But his point went further than just that. He talked about how many of us wait for the weekend to have fun and live. Or maybe we just need to wake up in the hospital one day, before we actually wake up. I do catch myself living for the weekend, and I don’t always stop to smell the roses on the way there.
9. Begin with the end in mind. This came up in a few lessons for me this year, including again my new favourite book: the 7 habits. This is a heavy one, but it ties everything together and I believe it’s better to bare its weight now than when it’s too late. We all know a day will come when we will die. We all should know that we may look back with some regret. To consider now what we don’t want to regret later is a good way to push yourself towards your goals. In 7 habits, he makes you imagine your own funeral. He asks you to imagine what you wish people would say about you. Like I said, heavy… I know. This was actually very useful to me because I often struggle to define my path with clear goals. Most self-help advice asks me to set clear goals. But what happens when I’m open-minded and I feel I could be anything at all? I could one day want to be a professional bowler because I’m bowling great, and the next day want to be a professional ping pong player because I’m smashing newbies in a basement somewhere. Imagining my funeral and what I wished people would say about me really helped me realize what really matters to me.
10. This one was mostly a reminder for me, a reminder of the single greatest concept that helped me turn my depression around. Originally, it came to me in a book about beliefs, but it was reiterated and elaborated in a speech by Tom Bilyeu. It’s closely tied to #6, in short: choose to believe what serves you best. When I face one of the world’s best bowlers, does it serve me to think “oh they’re way better than I am, obviously I’m going to lose”? Obviously not, that thought process would create a much higher likelihood of me losing. The second a bad break would happen, I could easily start to collapse in the “here we go, I’m about to lose” mentality. It should be clear to any serious competitor that it’s best to have a “I can beat this guy!” mentality, one that would drive me to persevere until the moment where it’s impossible, or that it’s accomplished. This example seems obvious to me, and hopefully to you as well, but it may not be obvious in battles with the self. Did it ever serve me well to think “bad things always happen to me” every time something bad happened? Hopefully, that answer is obvious too. I held this belief for a long time, and it made me dive deeper into depression, making me shrug off any good things with the mindset of “don’t worry, something bad is coming to take this good thing away.” That’s only useful if you like being depressed. I could go on about this for years, because it literally took me years to habitually question every thought with “is this thought serving me well?” But I’ll take you back to #2, where a stimulus happens and there is a small gap to your response. Do you do #1 and calm yourself, by taking a breath? Do you take the time to choose a response that serves you well? I hope you do.
If you took only one thing from this, I hope it’s this last one, the habit of asking yourself “does this serve me well?” Much like Tony Robbins, I hate seeing or knowing that anyone else feels the pain I felt. This habit is close to my heart as it turned around what may have eventually been suicide. I missed my cue on Bell Let’s Talk day, maybe one of my favourite movements simply because of the encouragement for people to open up. If you should find yourself doubtful or stuck, please ask yourself “do these thoughts and feelings serve me well?” If that doesn’t help you, please message me, I will do my best to help you find something that does serve you well.