Fear-setting or Why Yoda Was a Terrible Therapist

Fear-setting or Why Yoda Was a Terrible Therapist

I sometimes like to imagine that characters in movies are my patients. How would I get Will Hunting to work through his stuff without having the “you don’t want to hear that Skyler” conversation (because you know after his little meltdown the moment he showed up in Palo Alto she said “not another stalker!” and called campus security)? Or maybe where would I start with Frank Berkman (Squid and the Whale) to undo the impact of a being raised by a “filet” of a father and a brother who was so narcissistic he would start his own social media empire and then become a super villain?

In that way, how could I help Luke so he leaves Degobah a Jedi rather than needing to sacrifice his arm and letting Han Solo get all Teeglo Carboned.

The missed treatment moment happened on Degobah. It was Yoda’s fault. Hopefully we all remember the greatest scene in Empire Strikes Back. Maybe the only legitimate “I got the tingles” moment in all the movies.

Let’s set the scene. Luke happens upon his X-wing deep in the bog of Degobah. His new boy, Yoda, is like “dude ain’t no thang, I lift X-wings out of bogs in my sleep.” Luke, as he does, is like, “green dude, chill. First you ate my food but I let that go. Then you made me eat that nasty soup and bump my head. Then you creeped me out with that maniacal ‘you will be’ look.”  So Luke has a go. He fails.

“You ask the impossible.”

Yoda doesn’t need to hear that noise. He sets out to show this young buck what’s up. Not only does he pull the X-wing out of the water but he also conducts a sweet orchestral overture at the same time.

“I don’t believe it.”

“That is why you fail.”

Luke’s failure was a concert of poorly executed techniques by old Master Passice Voice. What Luke needed was some serious Fear-setting and Fear-rehearsing.

Tim Ferriss introduces Fear-setting and Fear-rehearsing in two separate chapters in Tools of Titans. This week we will tackle fear-setting and next week we will do fear-rehearsal

Fear-setting is the process of really identifying what you are afraid of and breaking it down. In psychotherapy we call this naming or bringing the subconscious into the conscious. Generally if we are anxious (anxiety being the cognition of an overestimation of a threat or underestimation of your resources to handle the threat) there is something we haven’t realized. Something important lies in our unconscious, running the show. Outside of frank psychotic disorders and organic brain impairment, we only do things that work for us and make sense. Even our anxiety is a manifestation of some tried and true method at work. If you can name your fear then you can work with it.

The question is do you want it to work that way? Do you want it to continue?

Tim’s fear-setting is broken into 7 questions. He recommends verbose, cathartic writing on each. The more you spew the more likely you are to find the thing you didn’t realize.

1. Define your nightmare

He has a number of other smaller questions but I think the most valuable is “what is the worst case scenario?” It’s like a Rude Goldberg machine. Work your way backwards and you’ll find the origin of your fear. Look for unproven assumptions because your anxiety is likely hiding behind them. We often call these assumptions “absolutes” or “all-or-nothing statements”. Words like “can’t”, “won’t”, “must/have to”, “need”, “always”. Use your own language as a radar for assumptions.

Another way I like to approach it is to assume that all fear is either a conscious or unconscious fear of death. If you follow any worry you will find a death end point eventually. That step is important because you may need to assess your pattern of death-avoidance. This will be important later for fear-rehearsal. For example, if money is the root of your anxiety, somewhere down the line is likely a fear of starvation which can cause death. If public speaking makes you anxious there is likely a fear of embarrassment which is then a fear that all those laughing mouths of teeth will try to kill you.

Our perceived weakness activates our fear of being terminated. It’s all very Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. When a need is perceived to not be met or forecasts a future of unmet status we react. It’s also evolutionary as other species generally see such “weakness” as a deal-breaker for mating. For non-human organisms, there is no other purpose than to propagate your gene pool. When your mind thinks death is on the horizon it may turn on your fight-or-flight system. At an extreme we call that a Panic Attack.

So sit down and try to be honest with yourself. There’s no point in censoring your fears on the paper. It’s not going to judge you. If you can’t name it, it won’t get better. Keep following the fear-logic until it makes sense. If you haven’t reached a death-nightmare outcome you aren’t on the right track yet.

2. What steps could you take to repair the damage?

Ah ha!  Now let’s assess the part of your anxiety that is an “underestimation of resources to handle the threat”. This process may again involve a lot of “I can’t” or feeling that repair isn’t possible. That’s your anxious mind hiding answers from you so that it can maintain control of the situation. Anxiety is also a habit of inserting the worst case scenario into ambiguous situations. Your anxiety likes things remaining ambiguous. That’s it’s wheelhouse. You likely developed your anxiety as a compensatory mechanism for not have a more effective way of tolerating ambiguity. Remember, your mind thinks it is saving your life. It doesn’t want to stop.

One way I like to motivate this creative process is to put some collateral on the hypothetical table. If the worse case scenario happened and you had to repair it in 24 hours what would you do? If you don’t repair it, you will die. Another approach is to consider that $10 million awaits if you can repair it in 24 hours.

This requires you to believe anything is possible. When your mind finds things impossible, behind that you are unlikely to find something you never considered. You need to believe in unicorns. This mindset is present in all of the Titans in Tools of Titans. 

3. What are the more probable outcomes?

This is a really cool exercise. We use it a lot in Cogntive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Your mind has latched onto the worst case scenario. It is assuming “as long as that bad thing doesn’t happen we will be okay”. Sure. True. Your anxiety won’t let you forget or ignore the potential of the worst case. If it did, so it thinks, it would welcome ruin through the front door. How can you distract your mind away?

Again, unless you define your answers you risk it only living in your subconscious. Task your brain with generating other hypotheticals. What other outcomes are on the table? What does it take for you to find these other ideas? You may need to get really silly and creative here because to this point the answers are being hidden from you by your subconscious defense mechanisms. Saying “go write them” is almost pointless. Again try externalizing it by pretending it’s someone else, ask other people for ideas, look for analagous examples on your life, or if all else fails just free associate on a page. It’ll come. 

This analysis is usually a big moment for self-exploration in therapy. Why the hell does your brain only offer you the worst and totally neglect the likely? Where did you learn to do it that way? Why does it persist and optimism fade away? I want to put about a 100% guarantee that if you look back through your life you will find a person or a time when life gave you a reason to buy into this system.

There is also a very big mindfulness opportunity here. In mindfulness, the worse case is as important as the best case is as important as the mid-level case scenario. So why not get REALLY good at controlling which one your mind focuses on? Why not focus instead on the wind on your face, the sound of your air conditioner or even your breath.

Yep we are talking meditation here. We will talk more about it eventually. For now- DO IT!

4. If you were fired from your job today, what things would you do to get things under financial control?

This isn’t only useful for job related worries. By answering this question you will create a risk-management plan. It’s good to have that in your back pocket. Can I convince you that you can improve anxiety by knowing which state or county in your area has the highest unemployment payment relative to cost of living? When we get to fear-rehearsing, can I convince you that going on vacation to that place and living off that amount of money will help you mitigate the worst-case avoidance?

The gift of being able to say “I will be alright, no matter what” may be the best anti-anxiety treatment there is.

5. What are you putting off out of fear?

This is probably the toughest question so far because it is really asks you to tap into your subconscious. If you are lucky, you have an answer: “I’ve been meaning to ask my boss for a raise but I’m too afraid he’ll say ‘no'”. However you may not have this kind of luxury of realizing you are doing it. Instead it will be marked by thoughts of “I have no idea how to…” or “It’s not even possible”.

In this space I like to externalize the problem solving. Try to find a similar scenario in your life and compare your problem-solving approach. This will flank your subconscious because it won’t realize you are solving your first problem by proxy. A more valuable action step would be to let other people solve it for you. I recommend not telling them it is your problem. People tend to go easy on us when we ask them for direct help. However “I have a friend who is really unhappy with his job and wants to move but doesn’t think it’s possible” should get you some raw answers. The use of advisors is also a near 100% factor for the people Tim has interviewed. It’s also in every classic personal/professional development book. It’s one of the reasons therapy works.

All problems are completely modifiable if you are willing and open to exploring all avenues. Including your own role in enabling the problem to continue.

6. What is it costing you- financially, emotionally, physically- to postpone action?

This is where it gets real. You are going to be exploring how much of your unhappiness is your fault. So to speak. You need to assess how much self-loathing you can tolerate. You may want to keep this to objective measures. Money, time, etc. That’s usually the most emotionally palatable landscape. However it is also a defense mechanism we call Intellectualization.

If you want to see change, you need to get uncomfortable. There’s a reason all athletic performance training requires some process of going past your current barriers to see improvement. It’s also the driving force of evolution- adaptation to stress. So yeah, try to test your emotionally comfortable limits on this one.

A less masochistic approach would be to get in touch with your Future Self. I like to think about this in terms of the Many-Worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Somewhere out there, according to the theory, there is a version of you that has solved this problem. What is their life like? Who are they? How are you different? Try to get very specific with this. The more excited and emotional you can get about this future version of you, the more you will engage that childhood-dreaming mechanism that is so powerful. Kelly McGonigal does a great job of exploring this in The Willpower Instinct. 

7. What are you waiting for?

I’m so glad Tim closes with this. So far this exercise has created some challenge but in and of itself it has not taken you to your goal. Only one thing will do that- doing SOMETHING.

You may notice that this is not a thought exercise. It is almost a rhetorical question. However there is a process here if you like. It may be somewhat helpful to define the cognitions that you are using to delay action. There is certainly another pattern in there somewhere.

I first latched onto this idea after reading Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. He focuses on an idea of taking action RIGHT NOW and give it everything you’ve got. Tony Robbins has a similar method where he likes to utilize the system shock of getting out of your head and creating physical motion. There’s a reason two of the more prominent self-help guys have a similar approach. It works.

This doesn’t mean you need to fix the problem now. That’s too much pressure on yourself. Remember, one small step is all you need. But a step is needed.

What can you do today? What can you do in the next 30 seconds that will take you one step to your goal? If you just answered “all the steps I need to do take longer than 30 seconds” you are missing the point. Break it down. Make it small. Do something. Now.

Can I convince you that opening and closing up your laptop one time with the verve and optimism of your Future Self achieves more progress than you have seen otherwise?

Let’s go back to our case study: the burgeoning Jedi and his frustrated and bruised teacher.

When Yoda meets Luke he spends some time assessing his fear-setting capability. Luke fails, big time. “If we could get our ship out we would, but we can’t.” “I don’t know what I’m doing here. We’re wasting our time.” It almost cost Luke his training. Good thing Obi-wan was there to normalize the situation.

Yoda is no stranger to fear. We’ve all heard his lecture on Advanced Fear Psychology. “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” That’s a pretty awesome breakdown of anxiety and suboptimal coping!

It would have helped for Luke, after being eeriely told he will be afraid, to sit down and talk through what fear was there. We already know Luke has the emotional maturity of a 5 year old (“but I was going to go to the Toshi Station to pick up some power converters”). He needed kid gloves. Or whatever gloves a three finger Jedi Master wears.

Luke is an orphan. He spat on the grave of his dead foster parents by following that crazy old man on some damned adventure. Everyone he gets close to dies (mom, dad, foster mom and dad, Obi, Biggs, evil step-grandpa, Yoda, Han). He kissed his sister (okay he didn’t realize that she was his sister yet, and she kissed him, but you’re telling me two Force-aware beings can liplock and not notice anything? Especially the twin offspring of a being derived by the Force. Ever notice Luke took the news of going to Degobah pretty easily. I guarantee he knew he needed to get out of there quick after that kiss. Plus Han claimed his territory and had a good 25 pounds on Luke. Ask me sometime about my theory that Rey is the accidental love child of Obi-wan and Sabé).

It stands to reason Luke has some cognitive distortions to work through. By naming his fear, his assumptions about his lack of skill with the Force (dude kept dropping things, including his master), and what might happen if the worst case came true he might have been better off. You’re telling me that in 800 years of training Jedi Yoda doesn’t have a few tips on how to return from the Dark Side?

Yoda needed to help Luke do some fear-setting… er, some setting-fear with Luke, Yoda needed.

Yoda did try some fear-rehearsal when he sent him into the Dark Side Cave. A little heads up might have been helpful. We will talk more about setting up a fear-rehearsal next week.

For now, suffice it to say, don’t seek out a Jedi master for therapy.

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Sleep… On Your Terms 

Sleep… On Your Terms 

Most people neglect the very thing we spend almost half our lives doing.

Last week we learned how George used his assumptions as targets to gain control of his life. However George hadn’t slain the dragon. He had put out the fires that this vicious beast laid upon the land. This menace which plagues us daily is Sleep.

George was a terrible sleeper. Thought for thought, his most productive time of the day had actually been from the moment he laid down until the moment he fell asleep. Those two moments were usually hours apart. “Going to bed” generally meant “staying awake” and thinking. A lot.

It was funny because without realizing it, George had actually developed a completely rock solid sleep routine. It was predictable, reproducible, and effective. The only downside is that it was a good routine for someone living somewhere between Japan and Hawaii.

His Circadian rhythm was all off. Sunrise and sunset had no bearing on his day. 10pm may as well have been 3pm. Naps were coveted like a drug addict in need of a fix. He felt he had actually beaten the monkey because “now I only need 5 hours and I’m good”. Except he never even got 5 hrs.

It’s funny how sleep-deprived people always think good sleep is only an hour more than their curent average.

Let’s talk about fixing sleep. As an insider tip, if there’s anything medical you ever wanted to know, find the practice guidelines for that specialty. They are all online and free. I promise it is infinitely more valuable than any biased website or message board for “People with the same problem I’m learning about.” I’ve shared my bias against bias before. As a mental health provider, I consistently see unintentional exposure to bias as a toxic factor. Go to the source first. Then engage the interpretations.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine practice guidelines are clear- sleep or die. Okay they also see increased mortality with excessive sleep but that is likely confounded by the mortality of people over 60 years old. They optimize the recommendation at 7-8 hours a night for adults. For kids they recommend 9-12 hour for elementary school age and 8-10 hours for teenagers. Sorry “I only need 5 hours and I’m good” guy, science says you don’t realize what you’re missing nor what you’re doing to your body. “My body is trained to go on little sleep.” Yes, and an alcoholic’s body is trained to not be intoxicated after a fifth of vodka. For kids the cry will be “but homework and after-school activities!” If your child had cancer and needed chemotherapy every evening how would you manage it? Think how much we protect an infant’s sleep. Why does that change when school starts? The AASM is saying that a child not getting enough sleep is at risk of mortality, among many other risks. A child’s sleep should be the first priority in setting up their daily schedule.

The guidelines also outline how one should approach sleep management. Here I am only going to focus on Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder (DSWPD). It is effectively jet leg as though you traveled East. Most people who think they have insomnia have DSWPD. The difference is that DSWPD allows a person to fall asleep and sleep well if they are given the time. “If I could just go to bed at X and sleep until Y I would be PERFECT!” Insomnia is legit no sleep. DSWPD is a disorder of your Circadian Rhythm, your body’s natural sleep cycle which is mediated by hormones and the change in light and darkness.

Their recommendation is only to utilize melatonin to help re-regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Despite being a supplement, you still should consult with your physician first. It is interesting though that they do not recommend sleep-wake scheduling or timed physical exercise. This is not due to those interventions being shown ineffective but rather for a lack of research. Like “no new research”. Research costs money and behavioral interventions don’t yield a product that can make anyone money. That may explain why less research is done. A similar dynamic exists around psychotherapy.

So again, the best literature on behavioral interventions tends to be in personal and professional development. Back to Tim Ferriss and Tools of Titans!

Tim doesn’t have a dedicated sleep routine in the book. Instead it is a video here. I’m going to jump on that instead.

1. Decaffeinated Tea + Apple Cider Vinegar + Honey

Lots of people talking about the value of sour foods in athletics and wellness. Seems to promote recovery.  You don’t have to sell this German on the role of vinegar in food. Tim doesn’t write much about placebo-ing or blinding his life hacks. I wonder how it may contribute here. “A cup of warm milk” may have been the apple cider vinegar of yesteryear. Regardless, as we will see repeat over and over here, if you think it will help you sleep DO IT!

2. Hot Soaking Tub

Again not sure how specifically important hot water or immersion are. The hot water should dilate blood vessels, may increase heart rate to cool you down, and should relax muscle tension. That’s the physical part.

Mentally it’s a beautiful thing. You stop. You lay down. Water gives you a unique activation of touch that you don’t have any other time of your day. It’s usually quiet. And guess what- most people are not accessing input devices while taking a bath! It’s a vacation from the real world.

Tim talks about this kind of Minimum Effective Dose concept a lot. We have assumptions about what is meant by a certain value. For example, to Americans vacation means one week. A getaway is a weekend. “Day trip” consolidates something done in a 24 hr period. These are all assumptions. In Europe vacations are a month long. When values are variable based on environment it should key you in that the value is actually defined by perception. That means you can modify the definition if you want. You can find your Minimum Effective Dose and start considering that vacation. What if you found that you could take 52, one-day vacations a year? What if laying down in a bath for X minutes a night would completely achieve the Minimum Effective Dose that minimalist and tiny house people are changing their lives to achieve.  Unless you approach life as an experiment you’ll never know.

Yeah so take a warm bath. I also will point out the metaphor for a womb. Warm. Water. Confined space. Limited sensory input. There’s a reason we attach words like calm, soothing, relaxing to baths and water in general. Even if you don’t like womb references (thanks Freud for ruining that for us), can I sell you that it is another childhood memory you are accessing? As a baby you were bathed. We see over and over again that actions that create opportunity for parent-child bonding are associated with high emotional value. Feeding creates more face-to-face and skin-to-skin interaction than may happen at any other time. Bathing is similar. Advancing epi-gentics has shown that emotional moments in our lives can translate to changes in our genetic code. Those changes can be transmitted down the line to future generations. It makes sense then that re-engaging those behaviors might elicit a health promoting response.

3. Read Fiction

I love this. It goes back to role intentional, planned fun can play in your life. My guess is most people don’t sit down and read Ulysses or How to Make Friends and Influence People to their kids at night. Why not have some fun, use your imagination, and have something to look forward to at the end of the day. Remember we are buying the idea that regular use of imagination and wellness are essential components to wellness.

4. Hot and Cold Exposure

I will again save detail on thermoregulation for later. He doesn’t mention this in the book and the context of the video implies he does his hot cold cycles at night which would be surprising. Most Titans mention it as a morning routine. Hot I can buy. Maybe he’s saying that he cycles hot bath with hot sauna. If you’ve got a sauna good on ya! Let’s consolidate this to: get into some heat and slow down!

In Tools of Titans, Tim also discusses visual overwriting. He references Jane McGonigal’s recommendation to play 10 minutes of Tetris (hmm that childhood thing keeps popping up) or watching a fun TV show. I think this is a must for any evening. Have fun.

Josh Waitzkin and Reid Hoffman’s also talk about the use of the subconscious during sleep. They like to give their subconscious work to do while they sleep. This is such a great idea. Though I prefer Josh’s as he leaves a gap of many hours between the plant and the harvest. His last action of his work day includes pondering an idea he’d like his subconscious to work on solving. Then first thing in the morning, his creative time, he brainstorms on it. The idea being that the free association brainstorming is informed by the work his subconscious has done.

Don’t undersell the role of the subconscious and the ability to consciously manipulate it.

Other Sleep Ideas

Move Leisure to the Morning

I can’t emphasize how important I think this is. We have a natural habit of back-loading our day with fun. While that is a great idea in terms of wellness, it is extremely vulnerable to any increase in need for productivity. Very few people engage their Minimum Effective Dose for evening leisure. What if you had to top-up your willpower reserves in one hour? What would you do?

Even more interesting, if I moved the start time for everyone’s work back two hours without warning what would they do? Would people binge-watch Netflix? Would they order a pizza and chase it with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s? Likely not. For some reason those behaviors are not what people associate with a morning.

If given the time, people may be more likely to engage wellness promoting activities in the morning.

With that in mind, I would argue that the best way to structure a day is to go to bed as early as possible so that you can make your mornings a time of productivity or wellness. Why not address your body and mind’s needs at the height of your day’s effectiveness? You have no idea what you are missing.

Do not use sedative medication or drugs to fall asleep

As the AASP recommended above, it doesn’t work for DSWPD. Only melatonin and even then it’s weak evidence. While they do use medication for insomnia, that is a medical diagnosis and it should be made by someone who can very clearly tell you what the criteria are and the evidence-based practices to treat it. All sedating medications including cannabis can impair achieving restorative delta sleep. They also teach you to rely on an external mechanism to treat an internal problem. It negates the efforts of your Circadian rhythm. It’s not worth it particularly relative to the profound impact a solid sleep behavior plan can have.

Let’s circle back to George.

Headaches. A high-carb and high-sugar diet. Weight gain. High blood pressure. Irritability. Poor focus and memory. All these were the currency George had traded in return for a Lvl 70 rank on Call of Duty, a robust network of fellow political skeptics on Facebook and an intimate knowledge of the best value food options on Postmates. His health could easily be mortgaged to attempt to combat sleep.

Despite a lifestyle that mortgaged sleep at will, getting more sleep was one of his intial requests when we talked about goals. Even more puzzling was that saying “don’t do these things anymore didn’t help”. It was almost like he was addicted to poor sleep. 

After getting the morning routine under contol we set out to own the night. His natural sleep time was 2am. This was a vestige of the natural Circadian rhythm of all teens. He never unlearned the habits it created. Our first step was to clean up his sleep hygiene. No caffeine after 2pm. No food after dinner. No back-lit electronics 1 hr before bed.

The next step was to not try to go to bed before 2am. This was surprisingly (to him, not me) hard for him to achieve. He REALLY noticed fatigue around 1230am. While he wasn’t falling asleep on the couch- HE WANTED TO GO TO SLEEP! At 1am he started his routine.  He listened to his favorite music. He used Calm to meditate for 10 minutes. He read the Hobbit. Sleeping at 2 am was no problem.

After 2 weeks of sticking to his routine he started marching his sleep time back. Initially it was 30 minutes for the first week. We did it small like this to prove to him it was possible. After that we did an hour a week. There were a few times when this was too big a step so we backed off and hung out at that bedtime for a week or two more.

It was not a perfect experience. He had very tired days. Part of his expectation for himself was that he would not compromise his progress on his morning routine. So we had to supplement sleep. He would go to his car at lunch and catch a 15 minute nap. Same right when he got home from work. Short naps like that don’t achieve delta sleep and so they don’t affect your Circadian rhythm. (PS- this means your non-delta, NyQuil-induced night of sleep is effectively a long nap. Not to mention the lower average oxygenation your blood gets due to the effect of sedatives on your airway).

The turn for George came with a bit of history I had failed to discover previously. He had an absolute association of effective sleep. Most every Saturday he would fall asleep around noon watching DVDs of the Simpsons. It was like clockwork and he loved it “if I could just do that at night”. There were a number of factors contributing to this.

One was that he loved the Simpsons. His mind shut off. He was relaxed. What we learned was that this was unique to past episodes. If he watched new episodes he would be follow it more mentally active. The DVD was also key because he could set it to Play All. This is why watching TV didn’t work. If he could change the channel it kept him from totally shutting off. “Maybe something better is on?” He also had to turn the volume down so big changes in the action didn’t wake him up. He knew all this but didn’t realize he was generating a sleep hygiene plan.

We ported this over to his evening. We found he needed a smaller screen to minimize the light generated. A portable DVD player fixed that. The impact was almost immediate. He was falling asleep with 30 minutes of laying down. Often within 5. If he woke up later he would use his mindfulness techniques to do a body scan in 10 seconds and decide if he was too alert to go right back to sleep. If so he’d fire up the Simpsons. If not it was back to sleep. It seemed his overnight, highly-alert bouts were directly tied to the amount of stress in his life at that time.

I took about 8 months but George soon felt that sleep was under his control. He eventually started going to bed around 9pm and getting up at 5am. This bought him 2 hrs of free time to do what he wanted. He enjoyed the experience of using his free time for something he was proud of doing. Even his leisure time became something others might consider productivity time. His concept of leisure became self-care.

George had learned how to sleep on his terms. It was a small piece of a larger initiative to live on his terms as well.

Make Your Good Days Predictable

Make Your Good Days Predictable

Meet George, a man who was struggling through the newest human developmental stage – failure to launch.

When I met him he was overwhelmed by not having found his way. He had many of the markers of success. He lived in San Francisco and finally didn’t have to rely on roommates to make housing affordable. He worked for a tech company that was focused on doing good rather than making money. However when George compared himself to his peers he didn’t see value in any of it.

Rather his focus was on the perceived negatives in his life. His free income seemed to go directly to supporting Amazon’s newest service, “daily unnecessary box delivery”. Nothing brought value. Not his new cutting-edge drone- “great now I can take majestic panoramic videos of me drinking a beer alone at Crissy Field at 11am on a Friday”. Not the TRX straps hanging from his door- “they should add ‘towel rack’ to the brochure of available exercises”. He even had a membership to the hot, new pop-up, outdoor, functional fitness club – “I went once and threw-up during the warm-up”. 

George’s feeling of being stuck was as much a reflection of his environment and culture as it was self-perception. The accomplishments he had achieved felt simple in retrospect. He hadn’t endured hardship to access those achievements. He hadn’t surprised himself. That was where his mind resided, “I wish I could…”.

His disappointment with himself and his state of being accrued compounding interest. As each day piled on top of each other he became more aware of his lack of a postive trajectory. He was losing hope fast. This lack of hope was turning inward to create a ruminative self-loathing that was most apparent at night.

Every time he lay down to sleep he was flooded with the data of the day. Another day of unmet expectations. A movie of regret and he had a front row seat. As time ticked by each night his frustration mounted as the reality set in “I’m not going to get good night sleep”. Eventually exhaustion would take him out of his head and into sleep. The next morning he would pay for it. And the next day. So the cycle continued.

George needed a win. A belief that we was capable of being effective. He needed to prove to himself that he was capable of something. We could have used medication to knock him out, get 8-10 hours of sleep, totally disrupt his circadian rhythm and further starve him of restorative delta sleep. We could have given him an anti-depressant to hope to manage his anxiety or sadness. However he didn’t meet the criteria for severity that is associated with medication efficacy. Furthermore, none of those external mechanisms would have proven to George that HE could do it.

Our focus turned to behavior modification. Informed by the methodology of Cogntive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Response Prevention we developed a plan to get the deck stacked in his favor.

Our first target- his morning and evening routine.

A great day starts the night before. It is something you can plan for and decide to bring to your life. Most people engage good days as either windfall of chance or because bad things didn’t happen.  Wouldn’t it be great to expect to have good days even 51% of the time?

Tim Ferriss focuses on morning rituals with almost every guest. It proves one of the highest yield resources in Tools of Titans. Almost every Titan has a ritual and many have a lot of similarities. He dedicates a section in the book to “5 Morning Rituals That Help Me Win the Day”.

The plan we put in place for George adapted many of the structures Tim advances in this section and his evening routine which we will get to another time.

First let’s talk a little about the morning. This is one of the two most significant times of the day. The other being right before bed. The place humans should direct their self-improvement attention are the two consecutive hours divided by the prolonged stasis we call sleep. I don’t think it is a coincidence that these also tend to be the most socially isolated hours of our day.

It is very telling that the place we all could use some help is the time we spend alone. In the evening our inability to dictate when we fall asleep may be the biggest contributor to the epidemic of sleep deprivation in the developed world. That effect snowballs into most people starting the day at a deficit both in terms of sleep and morale.

Whatever your prime state upon awakening, you are now at the zenith of your efficacy potential for the day. Kelly McGonigal talks about this as your Willpower Reserve in her book The Willpower Instinct. She speaks of willpower as a finite resource both as a psychological and physical entity. Throughout the day you sap this resource and unless you replenish it you will struggle to be effective. This leaves the morning as one of the most important times to top-up your internal reserves. How unfortunate then that so many people would describe themselves as not being morning people.

This plays out in mental illness as well. Depressive and Anxiety Disorders both list impaired sleep as a consequence. Both can affect your sleep-wake cycle AKA Circadian Rhythm, leaving you deprived of restorative delta sleep. Anxiety tends to keep people awake at night, plagued by their thoughts. Depressed people, while also having trouble falling asleep, may deal with early-morning wakefulness. Another full day of hopelessness ahead of them and the rest of the house sleeping. This can be a high-risk time for suicide.

Wait! So you are saying we can significantly improve depression, anxiety, sleep, quality of life, productivity, and health by addressing just two hours of our day? Yes, and that’s the maximum investment of time. With practice 30-60 minutes TOTAL should suffice.

You’d think our healthcare system would be mobilizing all resources to improve this. Right? Well they aren’t.  Enter Tim Ferriss and the Titans. It seems preventative healthcare is best addressed in a peer-to-peer model. Here are the 5 steps he recommends and how we adapted that to George’s plan.

1. Make Your Bed

This is usually my first step intervention when trying to improve someone’s morning effectiveness. It’s so simple and yet so complex. For most people it hearkens back to some childhood experience. This can be valuable as it activates a paternalistic transference (a patient’s subconscious association of their therapist to a past experience). In some cases that activates action, particularly if the person relies on being told what to do. For others it is evocative of disdain- “how dare you give me chores!” This usually manifests as passive resistance as we usually aren’t actively aggressive to people trying to help us. “Oh I forgot” or thoughts on the way home “I’m paying this guy to tell me to make the bed?!”

As we say in the industry, there are no right or wrong answers. Just grist for the mill.

I also like the task of making your bed because the symbolism behind it is so rich. Doing so represents a guarantee that your first action of the day is productive. A win. Assuming you haven’t already lost a battle with snooze button. It also represents a rejection of temptation as you almost always have to tear yourself out of this EXTREMELY cozy, comfortable place to enter not cozy. Making your bed then is like closing the door. You can’t go back in there. There’s a finality to it.

There was a commercial some years back where a woman is getting out of bed to go running but her bed and its French accent are trying to get her to stay. As she finally tears away, it closes with “but you had a salad last night!” I think it is one of the most beautiful pieces of film for the work I do.

The final aspect of value is that it is dead easy. There are no further instructions than make the bed. You don’t have to tuck or untuck. No expectation to put pillows on top or beneath. Literally just do SOMETHING.

Tim also talks about the value of making your bed as a piece of reliable control. No matter where you are, how you are, who you are, today you will wake up. You can predict that and so you can also predict that you can control the state of your bed. That promise can be extremely powerful even if it’s only subconscious.

2. Meditate

This is a big step, though I don’t always agree with putting it in this sequence. It works well if you have a strong meditative muscle. However someone new to mediation may struggle to pick this up first thing in the morning. I prefer to sandwich it later after you have added some movement. I don’t want to go into the whole of meditation yet. Instead I will  again reference Chade-Meng Tan’s chapter on taking one breath which I discussed before. If you aren’t a strong meditator, use the morning to practice one breath. Make that breath an effort of intentional focus and a movement of your thoughts from where they are to where you want them to be. Even more basic than that, take the opportunity to use a breath to experience concentrated inward observation. Take a breath and note any physical or emotional characteristics that occur. Just one.

3. Do 5 – 10 reps of something.

This is another great one. Tim discusses the role of establishing a “prime state” and getting your autonomic nervous system up and running. This makes a lot of sense. Similar to the power of making your bed, doing reps of the same action will create a reliable comfort zone you can know will be there every day. So many Titans have different versions of this. Rick Rubin stands in the sun. Justin Boreta does kettlebell swings. Tony Robbins will hit a cold water plunge, do a breath walk, or bounce on a trampoline. Jamie Foxx, Naval Ravikant and Matt Mullenweg, Stanley McChrystal have some degree of calisthenics. Peter Diamandes and Wim Hoff utilize breathing. Jocko Willink goes right into strength training. Laird Hamilton uses water (of course). A few others talk about the value of inversion in the morning. note: some of this I’m pulling from the podcast as it is not in the book.

Let’s just leave it at this – you need to have some action you can quickly do every morning.

4. Prepare Titanium Tea

Lots of people drinking caffeine in their morning. I’m going to stretch this for more psychological meaning. It’s easy to just say “stimulant equals focus, energy and elevated mood so do it”. Instead I will point out that between the book and the podcast I don’t think I heard one person say “I drive over to Starbucks and get my coffee”. Okay just found it, BJ Novak does. Still I think there’s something there. You are creating, brewing, waiting, smelling. You are building delay into the morning. Slowing yourself down.

If you want to dive into this a bit more try this: set a goal to not drink any hot beverages with a lid for one month (okay, at least 2 weeks). Take note of how it changes your behavior. You likely aren’t drinking while walking or driving. You may even drink more slowly as a full cup can’t be easily upended and guzzled. All these experiences may help make a morning a calm before storm. A calm you control.

5. Morning Pages or 5-Minute Journal

This is a really high yield activity as well. I’m going to steal a little from Josh Waitzkin and Reid Hoffman here and expand this activity to Engage Creativity. That value of creativity is worth its own post eventually. The Titans mention it frequently. Chase Jarvis via Maya Angelou, James Altucher, Ryan Holiday in the Canavas Strategy, and Robert Rodriguez all talk about the value and strategy they put into creativity.

By creativity is not meant art or any other direction of expectation. Rather the simple act of generating something from your mind. Any medium. Any method.

Tim’s Morning Pages and 5-minute Journal are great ways to direct your creativity. Journaling and writing are natural habits for him. Yours may be different. Playing music, quietly, particularly if you are improvising. Answering verbally, mentally or in writing a number of questions you set forth for yourself. Reading something you use as a launchpad for imagination. Even taking a meditative mind-vacation to a place you want to go or have been.

Think of creativity and imagination as a muscle. We already have you moving your body above. Why shouldn’t we also move our mind?

Other Morning Ritual Ideas

There are a few other key points I recall from the podcast that I can’t find in the book.

One is Tim’s clarification that he does not do all of these every day. If he’s done one he is content. If he does 75% it’s a great day. To Chade-Meng Tan’s point about meditation, if this can become a skill you employ daily in some form it is much easier to employ more of it when life gives you reason.

I also like to recommend cold showers in the morning. Wim Hoff will extol the health benefits to the end of the day. Tony Robbins emphasizes the role of shocking the system and priming. I think it also helps to do something in the morning that you never thought possible and that you might even hesitate to do. Cold water is in your control so much that I find it easier to engage than most other challenges.  Especially if you have a handheld shower head, you can hit a small part of your body with the cold on days you aren’t feeling polar bearish. There is something valuable about being able to know you can tolerate cold. Especially as a departure from the comfort of warmth.

Another big step is to make your morning 100% output until you decide you are ready for input. This is another Josh Waitzkin pearl from the book and even more in the podcast. This time is your sanctuary. You are giving your day a gift of guaranteed time of happiness. First thing. The only thing that will compromise it is sleeping too late.

If you have a habit of waking up and checking email, text messages or the news you likely don’t realize how powerful this step can be. Just picking up an input device exposes you to a risk of stress. You may say “I read funny stories and pictures of cats on Facebook first thing, I skip the stressful stuff.” How is it you can guarantee the negative stuff you scroll past doesn’t invade your consciousness at all? You’ve never had a day where someone texts in the morning and brings stressful news? The risk is there so have a go at eliminating the risk. You may find that your assumptions around needing electronics is WAY overstated.

By making a pact that you will not engage any input devices you guarantee that your state of being is entirely in your control until you choose to release control.

Another part that is missing is fun. I think it’s important for this process to have some part that you define as fun. Whatever it may be. Jane McGonigal, twin-sister of Kelly McGonigal referenced above, is a big supporter of planned fun. Even playing video games or watching a fun show. Remember how kids love morning cartoons? We aren’t uniquely different beings now that we can watch R-rated movies. You may find that the promise of fun opens a door to so many other options by drawing you out of bed a few minutes earlier than usual.

Let’s go back to George.

George was most comfortable with the journaling idea and having a caffeinated beverage. For him English tea had some nostalgia that made the morning a very positive place. It took him back to his childhood living in England when his family would have a long, slow, Sunday breakfast together. The kids were allowed one cup of half-milk, half-tea with sugar. Utilizing this in our work added a fun component to the morning. Where he had been worried that his lack of being a morning person would hold him back, the fun and expectation of a “cuppa” pulled him out from under the covers quickly.

He had journaled in the past while traveling  so it was a natural extension. He started by writing about past travels. Just stories from his memory. That gave way to writing about goals and things he wanted to do. He didn’t generally need prompts as he was getting the rhythm down of being a journaler. Eventually he would bring more structure to his journaling. As he became happier there was less need to have as much consolidated “remember happiness” time. We found that his minimum need was actually to plan that every Wednesday he would pick up his old travel journal and read for 1 minute. This repetitive action held him over the way 5 days of writing about those events for 10 minutes did initially. With that extra time he could engage more problem-solving with his journaling. This led to an exploration of goals and bucket-list ideas he soon started knocking off systematically.

He was not initially motivated by meditation, “I’ve tried it, I get too bored”. We went over the idea that successful meditation is one moment of having your thoughts going from where they are to where you want them to be on purpose. We agreed to build around the cup of tea. Every morning he would sit down in the same chair, hold his cup with two hands (how he did as a child), and before taking his first sip he would take a deep breath, hold it while surveying his inner state, then open his eyes and use the breath to blow on his tea.

It was totally cathartic. He noticed that he felt better after the breath. One day he had a tough meeting coming up at work that he was dreading. He stopped his thoughts from focusing on the meeting for his one breath. In a moment the dread was gone. Then for the entirety of his cup of tea he was caught up in his imagination. He spent his time remembering his youth in England. We discussed how that too was meditative. That gave him a lot of pride and left him to think about those times often throughout his day.

George also liked the idea of adding mindless reps of something physical. Starting small he would do large arm swings. This progressed to jumping jacks. Then push ups. Eventually he was doing inversions against the wall. It certainly didn’t make large contributions to his fitness. It did however have him feeling like a person that paid attention to his health. That was a big step for him.

Having now demonstrated some value to George, I had earned permission to challenge him more. Making his bed was initially too silly an idea. Even my insistence that the silliness was our friend didn’t work. However once he had decided I wasn’t full of it he relented.

Initially making his bed was a quick throw of the covers instead of leaving them agape and beckoning him back. He did notice the days he did that he was more likely to do his whole morning routine. It definitely got the ball rolling. Eventually it was so second nature that we decided to step it up. He began making his bed perfectly the way his mom had insisted when he was a kid.

This was a breakthrough moment. On one level it was a show of progress. He had shown himself he could overcome a challenge he had initially rejected and taken another step past even that accomplishment. It gave him hope that this whole process was a repeatable and predictable pattern. He saw the machine under the hood and knew he could apply it to any task.

The extra layer was one we couldn’t have predicted when setting him to the task of making his bed. It connected him with his mom and provided an indirect resolution to a long-standing conflict. His initial hesitation to my proposal to make his bed activated a subconscious resistance to anything that reminded him of his authoritarian mother. As we eventually learned, his marriage to a slow, ineffective lifestyle had some origin in defying his mom. To do any different would have let her win.

When he came to me it was an attempt to create a surrogate mom for his subconscious. Where our parents are given to us, we choose our therapists. In our process of relationship building I had earned the ability to offer him tasks he would accept. In overcoming them, he had to exorcise whatever conflict he had in his way. Once he did that he loosened his subconscious’ hold on the protective structures designed to guard him from the pain his mom had caused him through conditional love. Previously an unmade bed was a way to disappoint his mom and later to defy her.  Now he no longer carried those omens. An unmade bed was an opportunity to make himself proud.

In this way George would forgive his mother. Over time he would begin to enjoy her idiosyncrasies as “that’s just mom” where previously they were grinding reminders of the past. He brought this momentum to other relationships as he was able to date people with more acceptance for their quirks. His work became more fulfilling as he moved to find ways to direct self-driven development. This brought him more value than any external markers. It did require a change in departments, which his company was happy to oblige as they saw him stepping into a higher level of fulfilled potential.

Through the medium of his morning routine we were able to access knowledge about George we may have never found. Incremental goals and achievement gave him the momentum to step into the lifestyle he knew he was capable of having. He learned the process of making his good days predictable.

Disclaimer: Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

Just Breathe One Embarassingly Small Breath

Just Breathe One Embarassingly Small Breath

The best place to start climbing Mt. Everest is on the sidewalk that takes you out of Tribhuvan Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Can I convince you of that? Will you buy that base camp isn’t important? Not even the death zone. Nope. The most important part of climbing Mt. Everest is the flat part that every single human being is capable of doing.

The majority of people who have failed to summit Everest never even made it out their front door.

The concept of starting small is so important I want to lead with it in our discovery. The mantra I will advance is this: if there is something we are not doing and wish we were, we have asked too much of ourselves. When we are tasked with an action that has value to us and we believe we are capable, we do it every time.

Now you may be rejecting that straight away. “There are tons of things I would give anything to be able to do. I know I can do it too. If I could just…”.

And there it is. Doubt. A lack of belief in one’s ability.

Still don’t buy it? Let’s investigate more examples of when humans are innately effective. When attempting to learn about the relevant components of an unmet goal I always like to look away from it. As we discussed before, this minimizes bias and pre-planned Ego defense systems. Try to develop a habit of that process .

For example, in this case we are evaluating the accuracy of my statement that when we truly want something and believe we are capable of achieving it we do so. The tendency may be to dive into large-scale, extreme-valence examples that prove or disprove this idea. Rather let’s assess something happening innately.

How about reading this blog?  You are currently in the act of effectively reading this aren’t you? Let’s break it down. By virtue of reading this you accessed an electronic device. That simple act required a number of preparatory steps. 1. You charged this device. 2. You likely downloaded an app to access this article. 3. You learned how to use this device. 4. What’s more you bought this device or at least access to it. 5. You furnished it with internet access. 6. Within a few of these (electricity, internet access, and the purchase of goods) means you either mobilized a trade in compensation for money or you developed an intimate relationship that rendered an expression of its value (i.e. a gift).

Wow, look at you! Six steps! You likely did that all without significant effort. Well maybe the trade thing. Or the learning thing. Still. Damn! That is some extensive and complex executive functioning. And you think you can’t burn off that holiday cookie weight.

It is the easy, mindless achievements like this where we need to look for our unique pattern of effectiveness. That pattern likely started somewhere small. You also probably found some of those steps fun.  Maybe you really enjoyed the first moment of wanting to get a new phone. Researching which one to get. Pouring over YouTube leaks on the newest features. You probably got one in your hands prior to buying it. Gave it a test drive. A practice run for what your future-self would be like with this phone.

In this way the Apple Store is full of people unknowingly engaging the best practices of goal achievement. For a brief time they get to pretend they are the owners of that device. All day, every day dozens of people stand happily in Apple Stores to play make-believe. This positive feedback loop is likely tied to our childhood engagement of imagination which is why we enjoy it so much. If you buy that humans are engineered, either by an entity or a random-ish process over time (or both), this subconscious fondness for imagination is a very effective program to promote auto-upgrades. Which remember is what we said is our constitution.

This theme of incremental gains toward a goal is repeated over and over again in Tools of Titans. Rick Rubin says to make your task laughably small: “write one word.” Matt Mullenweg recommends getting over that initial hump with something “embarrassingly small”. Meng Tan had hacked mediation this way by distilling this extremely high-yield activity down to “breathing one breath.” Pavel Tsatsouline insists you start strength training with “half the reps you are capable.” Tony Robbins talks about the importance of adding something simple to his daily “I am grateful for…” exercise. Reid Hoffman talks about solving “the simplest, easiest, and most valuable problem.” James Altucher says “no idea is so big that you can’t take the first step” and “if the first step seems to hard, make it simpler.” Jocko Willink finds that pre-planning a day with simple structure promotes further movement on other needs. Shay Carl looks for simple clichés to explore for testable actions. Tim’s chapter on fear-setting utilizes “simple steps” to “get back on track if all hell struck.” While not overtly speaking to our method, you can see a theme of people placing their mental energy on simple and small first. In fact, I recommend using the Kindle version of Tools of Titans and typing in the word “simple” and see what you will gain.

Doing things small and simple is our best way of achieving momentum and later effectiveness. Our cognitive ability has afforded us the luxury of leisure. As a result our motivation muscle has become relatively weak. We don’t need to be good at the action of doing. Our culture moves increasingly toward making things faster and requiring less effort from  humans. This leaves our motivation muscle weak and atrophied.  Unless a persona conditions it, when we ask it to do some heavy lifting it won’t. Like the Central Governor Theory in sports, it tries to tell you “STOP!”. Only here it’s not pain, it’s the snooze button.

We have to build our motivation muscle. Small simple steps is how you build any muscle.

Let’s now turn this into something concrete and work through developing an incremental plan of small steps toward a goal. Since fitness is a big one at this time of year let’s start there. Let’s use the goal of losing 10 pounds. We will get into optimal goal setting another time, but for now we will work with that goal.

Weight is a great ultimate goal. Especially if it carries a significant emotional attachment. However it is a very poor intermediate or short-term goal. We need to make it smaller. Your intuition may have left you saying “okay, smaller goals… 1 pound a month.” That may seem easier. Did it work? Are you on your way?

What we actually need to focus on are the means by which you can lose that one pound. When I wake up and say “okay week one, lose 1/4 pound, let’s do this” it doesn’t help. Even breaking that down to a single day, “let’s lose 1/28 pounds” won’t work. We need to give your brain instructions. We have to eliminate any questions of “how-to” because that is where your status-quo brain will insert doubt. “Well it’s 1/28 today so maybe tomorrow I could do 1/14 and make up for it. Let’s go back to bed!”

A higher yield approach would be to set a clearly defined, objective, non-negotiable action for the day. “Run for 15 minutes.” “Go to the 8am spin class.” Make that as specific as possible. “Go to the gym” is so vague you technically could accomplish it by walking in the front door, turning around and going home (we’ll use that entity another time). Your mind knows that so it tries so talk you out of it. It knows it will be effective at changing your mind.  This is just like parent-child relationship when a parent who can be nagged into staying up for 5 more minutes or getting a new toy. That language may still be hardwired from years of success. It may be exactly where our mind learns the “6am-no-gym-sleep-more” language. We can unlearn that by indirect techniques where we slowly sneak up on our bratty-kid, self and attack it with effective, intentional effort (more on indirect techniques and The Art of War another time).

Back to our goal. You want to set your incremental plan in place and start testing. That requires knowing where is your starting point. What is the first small step? You will know when you are done breaking it down into small steps when you hit that embarrassing/laughable stage.

Here’s a  hypothetical breakdown of a goal and the person’s internal monologue: “To lose 1 pound in need to create a 1000 calorie deficit over the next month (yep, there’s a number, this step feels good), to do that I will go to the gym once a week (that seems too little but everyone says start small and I believe that), to go to the gym I will wake up at 6am, get dressed and go (ugh I hate 6am but this is it, I’m doing it this time).

This person took their plan to a great spot – specific and measured. Our friend here goes ahead with plan. It works for two days. Then it’s done. Willpower was burnt out and sorrow entails.

The approach now needs to be smaller. Where did the error occur? It likely was the AM wake up. Very few people have ever said “I didn’t achieve my goal, I went to the gym every time I said I would and did every workout I said I would and it didn’t work.” Usually it is engaging the plan where the wheels fall off. Let’s assume this person never got out of bed on day 3.

The plan needs to now shift to a goal of overcoming the hump. If two days can happen every week, great. Lock it in and let’s work on three days. If not, if one day killed your momentum let’s pull back. Forget the gym for now. Now your goal is to wake up at 6am. You might have actually started there. How much easier would gym-ing have been if you could have said “I already wake up at 6am every day”?  A New Year’s Resolution to wake up at 6am might have sounded silly, maybe even embarrassing. See…proof you should have stranded it your goal.

Now let’s get you out of bed. We are going to assume that this person gets 8hrs of sleep a night because most morning failures are actually evening failures the night before. But that’s a bigger topics.

First step, break down a 6am wake up and look for your silly-small step. What’s involved? Setting an alarm. The alarm going off. Getting out of bed. No, before that. Throwing the covers off? Opening you eyes.  Now we have it. Getting out of bed may actually be REALLY hard!

Let’s break down getting out of bed. Sound wakes me up. Eyes open. Sound off. Covers off. Swing feet. Stand. Now you are out of bed.

Can you open your eyes every day at 6am? Don’t go to the gym. You’re not allowed yet. We proved it’s too much. No just open your eyes. However once you open your eyes I want you to execute a planned productive action that you don’t already do automatically (i.e. check your phone). Something you can do from your bed. One small breath. A specific stretch or pose. Roll over and do a push up. ANYTHING that will tell your system “hey, newness happening, dust off the old machinery and get it out here.”

Good. Now do that for 7 days. But today, now, plan the next step. Write them down.

Week 1: Open eyes + action.

Week 2: Open eyes + Get out of bed + action

Week 3: Open eyes + Get out of bed + brush teeth + action

Week 4: Open eyes + Get out of bed + brush teeth + take shower + action

If you are willing to add + 30 seconds cold shower I guarantee you will be in the gym that day. More on that another time.

If you are sitting there rejecting this idea because it’s silly or doesn’t seem like it  work, good. That silliness is your proof you think it’s possible. The rejection of efficacy of the idea is your super ego sensing a threat and attacking it. That reaction proves this idea has merit. Note that this silly, ineffective plan isn’t being rejected because you can’t.

That is key!

This algorithm is applicable to any need. Finance (it’s the basic structure of any wealth development), fitness (all endurance sports focus on building a base of easy effort FIRST), education (why do we start with 101 classes and not straight to 400-level?), dating (aren’t most first dates shorter and simpler?). It’s the way we do EVERYTHING.

If it works for a genius music producer , an elite big wave surfer, the founder of WordPress, and a Google pioneer maybe it would be worth you trying too.

But just a small part of it. The most embarrassingly small part.