I wondered why I felt so stuck.
The pit in my stomach grew. I knew I should do something. It hurt. I felt worthless.
Even making a to do list seemed useless. All I could do was find another movie on Netflix as soon as one ended. Everything else seemed like an overwhelming struggle. I've wasted so much time already... Why do anything anyways? Why put in the effort? What's the use?
Of course, these questions led to more happy-go-lucky thoughts.
Did I make a mistake with my life? Am I who I thought I was? Am I worth anything?
2 weeks before that binge, I enjoyed a weekend of inspiration at the infamous Misfit Con. I walked away feeling excited and inspired. I could write a book, develop the Art of Change, and start huge businesses.
None of that happened.
I worried about why Art of Change wasn't doing as well as I thought it should. I spent so much time and effort building it up. Sure I stretched my abilities, became a better writer, and did over 40 interviews. I finally had a site to direct people, a central hub for all my other work.
For some reason, I ignored my progress and compared myself to the Minimalists. I met them at Misfit Con and took away so much value from their talk. They smiled and looked for ways to make friends with other attendees. They embraced new friends with excitement and big, warm hugs.
In the weeks following Misfit Con the comparison took more of my focus.
Within 9 months of starting, they gained over 10,000 monthly readers. They had written multiple best selling books. They spoke and delivered massive value to attendees, while telling some pretty good jokes. They were humble, open, and honest about the things they struggled with.
It bothered me to no end.
The more I thought about it, the more jealous I got. I looked for flaws on their site. In quiet moments I hoped for something, anything that would hinder or bring down their success. Their happiness and success somehow threatened my own.
My jealousy made no sense. They lived completely different lives than me with different upbringings and experiences. I still compared myself to them and wanted them to fail.
Soon it turned on me and became a self-defeating spiral.
I focused on everything I lacked. How my parents never gave me the support these superstars had. Everything I did wrong up to that point. Leaving a great law school halfway through the program. Stopping the startup I left law school to build. Quitting the programming course I started.
I wondered why it was so hard for me and so easy for them. I focused less on working to improve and more on why I wasn't cut out for it. Maybe I wasn't cut out for it. Maybe writing was a waste of my time. Maybe people in the community were right, and I'd amount to nothing for choosing a different path.
The questions only got worse.
Why try anything if there's such a big chance of failing? What's the use of creating something most people ignore? Why push when there's no guarantee I'd be successful?
If there was a solution, it needed to come from outside the never-ending loop.
Lo and behold, it did.
A book by Carol S. Dweck, highlighting two mindsets that drive our lives.
I'd encountered the idea of a growth and fixed mindset before. I figured I knew everything I needed to know. I was wrong.
The first few pages highlighted the entire problem. I viewed my writing, interviewing, and building as fixed traits. I saw my ability in growing the website as something I either had or didn't have. That mindset drove me to compare myself to others. It kept me from trying to improve.
Effort meant I didn't have the ability. I avoided any challenge or struggle, both of which meant I didn't have the ability. Since I couldn't change my ability, the next step was to compare myself to people with less ability than I had. It made sense why I felt so jealous of the Minimalists.
I needed to see my abilities with a growth mindset. Changeable through effort. The growth mindset meant short term success and failure wouldn't matter anymore. Putting in effort to improve would be my driving force. Throwing myself into situations where I struggled would be a blessing for how much I could learn and grow.
A single question shifted my focus, got me out of the rut, and helped me move forward.
"How can I improve just a tiny bit right now?"
While reading, memories of experiences and role models popped into my head.
In December 2009, I ran across an article in the Atlantic about the power or peril of praise. Studies showed how praising a child's abilities could cripple a child's potential. Saying things like "you must be smart," or "you're a creative genius," shift children into fixed mindsets. Fixed mindsets get kids proving they've got those abilities instead of working to improve them.
Thinking I needed to 'be smart' destroyed my motivation growing up. I hated effort. Effort threatened my image as a smart kid. I worried about whether others liked me and hunted for praise.
In high school, this led to experimenting with drugs, getting sent to the Principal's office, and making a fool of myself. Any attention and laughter from peers drove me to do more. I wanted them to like me. I lived to prove myself to others and lost sight of what I valued.
The article that December gave me my self-respect back.
2010 saw the biggest improvement in my life. I started journaling from January 1st about getting better. I applied myself even more with my LSAT studying, helping me launch into the 95th percentile. I discovered a new depth to Sikhi and developed a deeper gratitude with thankfulness exercises.
My growth and happiness in 2010 started with a deep dive into a growth mindset and a passion for effort.
In December 2013, Patterns school threw me right back into the growth mindset ring.
It came on the heels of months working with my parents on the family business. We banded together to make something beautiful. We gave it our all every day. My dad and I spent evenings watching interviews of business leaders. I embarked on a Tony Robbins month-long program with a close friend.
Then Patterns school and Josh Long jacked on the afterburners.
The students I and discovered patterns in our thinking that held us back. That week also revealed thinking patterns of some of the most successful people around. These role models had an unwavering belief in their own ability to learn and grow every single day. They noticed massive problems in the world and saw themselves as the only ones to solve those problems. They recognized that if they didn't work on those problems, no one else would. And they put in massive work every single day towards their craft.
Seth Godin become more successful each year because he showed up every day to write on his blog. It astonished me when I thought about it. Seth wrote every day since 1993, way before anyone took notice. He kept going regardless of the outcomes, getting rejected over 900 times from book publishers. He defines creativity as failing over and over until you get something right.
It's one thing to keep going when no one notices. It's another to keep pushing after you're successful. He still writes every single day. Even after best selling books, speaking for 6 figures, and multi-million dollar businesses.
Josh used Seth's example to drive the point home. He taught us that we needed to work on our art every single day. Not for the fame. Not for the fortune. But for the simple act of improving. By working and shipping, we would see massive gains over the course of a few months and years.
Within 2 months I created a brand new site, wrote almost every day, and started a podcast without any prior experience. I grabbed hold of every chance to stretch my abilities. I worked my ass off.
As I picked up the Minimalists' book, I realized they operated from a growth mindset every day. The words in the pages reflected that. They urged their readers to take small steps every day. To focus on what they value rather than impressing others. To challenge themselves with new experiences.
Their dedication to grow every single day drove their success. It made sense. The jealousy I felt earlier washed away. Respect, curiosity, and inspiration took its place.
The growth mindset brought me back full circle.
I focused on what I learned rather than whether I had the ability. I wanted to dive in every day and give it everything I had. I wanted to turn each day into a successful learning experience. With improvement as the driving force, I needed to do anything and everything that would help me grow.
I put the book down and looked for ways to apply my newfound understanding.
"How can I improve a tiny bit right now?"
The dishes were an opportunity to test my new mindset. Washing 1 dish was better than nothing. So I got to it. As I washed, it became easier to do more. I didn't have to do all, and didn't worry about it. I just kept doing 1 more.
Within a few minutes, there were all done.
The world opened up before me. I felt excited about stretching more and more.
"How can I improve a tiny bit right now?"
I sat down with a pen and my journal. I jotted down a few things I could do in the remaining hours. Even if I didn't do everything, writing it down and going for it was much, much better than nothing.
Jakara was coming up in a little over a week. My round, soft midsection needed to go, I thought. I wanted to work out but figured I couldn't get fit in a week.
Then it hit. It was the fixed mindset again. Fitness was something I either had or didn't have.
"How can I improve a tiny bit right now?"
Even 5 pushups would make me more fit than before. I got excited to do something, anything to improve my health. That question shifted my focus into a growth mindset and drove me to take action.
It reminded me of the good old days. No time in my life was perfect. What separated the bad from the good was a focus on growing and improving. A dedication to continue fighting every day to end better than I started. That shift bounced me back from low points, built momentum, and launched me forward.
Now, it's your turn.
"How can you improve a tiny bit right now?"
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We all deal with jealousy at some point. Give them the tools to handle it when it happens.