Review: “The Art of Work” by Jeff Goins

In this review I will basically talk about the most interesting things in the book and add my own thoughts and analysis.

“The Art of Work”

This book tackles the topic of finding our true calling. That is, finding out what we were put on this Earth to do.

Jeff mentions that everybody has their own unique strengths and it is up to us to figure out how we can use these strengths to add value to society and the world at large.

However, a significant portion if not most of the book talks about how to figure out what we were meant to do in the first place as many people may feel lost and directionless.

Here are the four main themes in this book to find out what your calling is.

1. Choose to act

By choosing to act, you immediately do three things.

One, you expose yourself to experience. This way, you try different things and figure out what you like and what you dislike, what’s for you and what’s not for you.

With action comes clarity.

“Practice can teach you what you are and are not meant to do.” – Jeff Goins, The Art of Work

This ties in with what Thomas Jefferson once said:

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”

Two – by proactively choosing to act and figuring how you want to contribute to this world, you’re not leaving your destiny up to circumstance.

“But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.” – Hunter S. Thompson

And finally three – by choosing to act, you expose yourself to possibility and opportunity.

“And if you are paying attention, you will recognise them [opportunities] for what they  are – chances to hear the call.” – Jeff Goins, The Art of Work

But Jeff also touches upon in his book how people tend to dissociate from others who they deem special to justify their own inertia. As Jeff puts it:

“We’d rather believe the fairy tale that says some people are just special. That way, we don’t have a responsibility to act.”

This is a terrifying, debilitating psychological trap to fall into.

I touch upon this trap myself in an earlier post of mine called “Extraordinary Person” which I had written way before I had read Jeff’s book. I talk about how deeming over over-achievers as “special” or “extraordinary” is a convenient dissociative psychological mechanism that makes us feel better about our inertia and lack of progress.

It’s easy to perform such mental gymnastics and the worst thing about thinking this way is that you rob yourself of the opportunity to become this extraordinary person yourself.

It’s comfortable to dissociate yourself in this way in this way. But comfort isn’t necessarily a good thing. Here’s Jeff:

“In an era where we prize comfort above nearly every other virtue, we have overlooked an important truth: comfort never leads to excellence.”

Watch out, for your own sake.

 

2. Look at the commonalities in your life

Whatever the experience we’re going through and whatever skills we’re acquiring, there will be overarching commonalities that should be treated as clues as to what work we were born to do.

Jeff says that “previous experience is conspiring to lead you in the direction of your life’s work” and for this reason “you must listen for clues along the way, discovering what your life can tell you.”

As a result, certain commonalities in our lives will emerge.

“Take time to look back at all you’ve experienced, and listen to what your life is saying. (…) A calling is what you have when you look back at your life and make sense of what it’s been trying to teach you all along.”

– Jeff Goins, The Art of Work

You already have the answer to your problem. It’s deeply embedded in the unconscious part of your mind.

Elements of your deepest desires bleed into your everyday routine. They manifest themselves in your everyday of your life.

Maybe you enjoy writing? Or you have a penchant for communicating with others? Perhaps you are drawn to the thrill of public speaking?

You will naturally put yourself in the position to take advantage of these skills and use them on a daily basis. You will do it because you love doing it.

Look for the commonalities in your days. These are the clues your subconscious is giving you.

“Look at the major events of your life and write them down. Note everything significant you can remember, even the things that seem silly or irrelevant but come to mind for some reason. Don’t try to decode the meaning; just put down everything you can think of. As you reach the end of the list, look for a common thread, some recurring theme. (…) you will begin to see a theme, a surprisingly obvious thread that ties it all together.”

– Jeff Goins, The Art of Work

But if we manage to miss the subtle calls of what it is that we were meant to do – we can always look back on the commonalities and connect the dots in retrospect.

Interestingly, this is very similar to what Steve Jobs mentioned:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

3. Anything learnt or experienced will not be wasted

As you go through life, you go through different phases which offer their own unique types of experiences.

Going through these experiences, you gear up with new skills and acquire wisdom along the way.

With every opportunity, you gain knowledge and experience – each from a different source – all of which you will be able to use later in life.

Though perhaps at the time of building up these skills they don’t inspire much confidence as to what their use may be, they will somehow come in handy at some point down the line.

As long as you keep putting yourself out there, collecting experiences and building skills – if it hasn’t already, at one point it will all just click for you.

In short – anything learnt or experienced will not be wasted.

4. Painful practice

Lastly, a great way to determine your direction in life and what your “calling” might be is to observe what the activities that you can experience through painful practice.

“Pain is instructive to the person willing to learn.” – Jeff Goins

That is, if you can do something when it’s not fun, when you’re exhausted and maybe even bored, but no matter how painful the practice, somehow you still press on, forever motivated, forever curious regardless, that is a strong signal.

Picasso experienced painful practice with painting and through the highs and the lows, he’d paint relentlessly, whatever the cost. Picasso was simply passionate about painting:

“If they took away my paints I’d use pastels. If they took away my pastels I’d use crayons. If they took away my crayons I’d use pencils. If they stripped me naked and threw me in prison I’d spit on my finger and paint on the walls.” – Picasso

Closing thoughts

I will leave you with this final quote:

“Feelings are signposts to be trusted in your journey to your purpose. (…) Fear, indecision, not knowing – these are the obstacles that keep you from moving forward. And they never go away. But if you are going to find what you were meant to do, you will have to act anyway.” –  Jeff Goins.

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.

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What Kind of Job Fits You?

It’s important to find a job that suits your personality makeup.

Here are some of things you should be looking out for when on the hunt for a job:

Are you smart enough?

In the hierarchy of competence, the higher you go up it, the demand on intelligence increases.

If you’re not smart enough to handle your position, you will struggle.

You will be a small fish in a big pond and you will not manage that well.

You will be miserable and make the lives of others around you miserable because of the stresses of your day-to-day and by not being able to properly cope, you’ll carry these stress into your personal life.

As Jordan Peterson puts it:

“Unless you don’t want to fail, don’t put yourself in over your head.”

How agreeable are you?

If you’re agreeable, you’d do better in a cooperative environment rather than a competitive one.

Are you creative?

Do you need to be told what to do at every juncture or can you proactively come up with creative solutions to problems?

How conscientious are you?

Do you enjoy firing on all cylinders when having to deliver on something or do you prefer lazily chipping away at whatever task is at hand?

Are you neurotic?

If you’re neurotic, you’d be better off avoiding high stress environments to maintain optimal mental well being.

How’s your stress tolerance?

Do you do well under pressure?

Are you able to master your emotions well in times of crisis?

Do you have adaptive coping mechanisms to cope with prolonged stress?

Do you have good stress-relieving habits when recovering from work?

How to maximise your chance of success

To maximise your chances of success and maintaining optimal well being, you have to figure out where you are on the scale in your intelligence-personality profile.

Once you’ve figured that out, you can aim to go for a job where you’ll be a big fish in a small pond.

Granted, you don’t want to be the smartest guy in the room because that would mean that you’ve outgrown that particular environment and the longer you stay there, the longer your growth will be stunted.

In other words, surround yourself with people smarter than you if you want to grow because you will learn a lot from them.

Of course you’d want to avoid being the dumbest person in your immediate environment because, though you’d be in a position to potentially learn a ton, that would still be a tough and stressful environment to be in.

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.

Growing With the Seasons

Life is lived in phases and your personality shifts with the seasons.

During the Spring and Summer seasons, you might find that you go out more and socialise more often, or that you exercise a lot more, and that you travel quite a bit.

During the Autumn and Winter months, you might notice that you tend to read more and immerse yourself in other, more introverted activities.

The changing seasons bring out different aspects of your personality and it would be wise to appreciate and honour these changes.

Now that we’re in the thick of Autumn, many people may be going into monk mode or nerd mode, delving into more introverted activities.

And that’s absolutely fine, in fact I’m going through something similar myself.

Think of Autumn and Winter as a time where you gather energy for the future Spring and Summer months where you will expend this energy.

And with the blossoming of trees with the beginning of spring, you too will blossom.

Here’s a video by Elliot Hulse that captures this idea:

Periods of immersion and periods of maintenance

As your personality and energy level shift through the seasons, you’ll also be alternating between periods of immersion and periods of maintenance.

In the Summer, you’ll be expending energy on outdoor-type activities such as exercise, social gatherings, travelling. It’s likely that these areas of life will be the areas you’ll be devoting significant attention to, that you’ll be immersed in. This is a period of immersion.

With total immersion to focus on your own tangible goals comes a certain short term sacrifice. After all, you’re investing your time and attention and focus into one area while decreasing all of the above in a different area.

The way I see it though is that if you invest your time into, say, travel, you’re raising your value so that when you’re in the mood to start partying and hanging out with friends, you’ll have a suitcase full of memories and stories to tell.

On the flip side, activities like reading may be put on hold, and though you might not be reading consistently, you won’t totally give it up and will maintain that area of life every now and then.  This is a period of maintenance.

Whatever season it may be or whatever phase of life you may be in, enjoy the phase you are currently going through.

 P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.

Mood Follows Action – How to Fake it Until You Make It

Imagine you’re in a funk, going through a slump, having a lazy day.

And for the life of you you can’t be bothered to do anything.

Ultra-endurance Athlete and author of “Finding Ultra” Rich Roll highlights that the common default mental position is to let a slump pass and just wait until you feel better.

But what Rich advocates is to take action in spite of how you feel.

So how do you shift how you feel about a scenario?

1.Take action in contrast to that feeling.

Be cognisant of the temporary nature of your current emotional state and realise that it is merely a ‘feeling’.

It is merely a feeling that can be easily reverse-engineered into something else.

Mood follows action. By taking action in contrast to that feeling is how you shift how you feel about a scenario.

And your brain will rise to the occasion.

2. Show up, especially when you’re uninspired

Even when you’re not feeling productive and can’t be bothered to do any work or if you’re feeling unmotivated to go to the gym for a workout – just go.

Just show up.

As Woody Allen once famously put it:

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

Just by showing up, you’re putting yourself into a productive, motivated mood.

Because even if you go to the gym while uninspired, the context of the gym itself will inspire motivation in you.

This ties in with pre-game rituals, like putting on your gym clothes before going to the gym just to summon that motivation to go.

A prime example of this is Scott Adams, author of the Dilbert cartoon-strip, who puts on his gym clothes before leaving his house, getting inside his car, and driving off to the gym for his workout.

It gets him in the zone. I talk about these concepts in an earlier post.

3. Improve your posture, change your breathing

By improving your posture, you can actually breathe better.

How?

Simply because your lungs are no longer pressing onto your diaphragm once you straighten up.

Why is it important to breathe better?

Strongman and Youtuber Elliot Hulse puts it this way:

“Breathing is the stimulation, both energetically and physically, of the intelligence in your unconscious, in your body, in your viscera.”

Elliot says that when you posture yourself like someone who feels good about themselves, you drive specific stimulation into the nervous system, and the nervous system immediately relays this to the brain.

It is an immediate feedback loop between body and mind.

In fact, Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy has shown that if you strike a V-pose, you can increase your testosterone levels by 20% and decreases your stress hormone levels just in 2 minutes.

Posture and depression

If you’re feeling a bit down, your body will follow and start slouching.

Feeling down or depressed isn’t just a mental thing, it’s physical as well.

In other words, depression has an embodied element to it.

This is also why if you’re having a crappy day, you should find some reason to smile.

It actually does make you happier.

cartoon_charlie_brown-depressed

There is a lot of science behind this cartoon.

People who experience depression also exhibit characteristic postures and movement that are an integral feature of their depression experience. 

Examples of embodied components of depression include reduced walking speed, smaller amplitude of vertical movements of the upper body, and hunched postures that elicit feelings of depression. 

As professor of Psychology Graham Davey, P.h.D puts it:

“These embodiments are not just reflections of inner feelings, they comprise an integral part of the depression experience because attempts to directly modify these postural features of depression also relieve the experience of depression.” 

This is why exercise is good to combat depression, not only because it chemically alters your brain but also because it eliminates poor postures that contribute to the embodied depression experience. 

We are however we act

What we do influences what we think.

“[W]e are designed to become in reality however we act. We fake it until it becomes real. Our core personality doesn’t change, but we quickly adopt the mannerisms and skills associated with our new status and position.”

-Scott Adams, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

A mood is just a mood, forever fluid and changing.

Take charge by acting in spite of how you feel and you will make great strides to changing your mood.

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.

Three Ways to Improve Your Sleep

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Ultramind Solution, here are his tips on how to improve your sleep:

  1. Avoid stimulants like caffeine, sugar, alcohol, nicotine before bed.
  2. Try to go to bed at the same time everyday, ideally before midnight.
  3. Don’t watch TV or use your phone or laptop two hours before sleep.

Melatonin is a sleep hormone which is excreted by the pituitary gland when it is dark.

This hormone makes you sleepy, especially when you’re chilling in a dimly lit room.

However, if you watch TV or use your phone or laptop, you’re stopping the natural melatonin secretion from happening.

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.

The Truth About Sauna & Magnesium Supplements

Sauna

Chilling in the sauna is such a beneficial pastime.

It relaxes, detoxifies, and rejuvenates. It works wonders for your skin.

But perhaps most importantly, the sauna can activate two genetic pathways that curtail the stress of ageing, according to Dr. Rhona Patrick, ph.D in biomedical science and expert on nutritional health.

One of these pathways includes heat shock proteins which are activated by heat stress. These proteins decrease the rate of cell degeneration.

Interestingly, the effects of these proteins can extend for up to 2 weeks after going to the sauna.

It also activates a gene called Fox03 which is a gene that creates proteins that protect cells from inflammation and oxidative stress.

What this translates to is this: the more you go to the sauna, the lesser your risk of developing any form of cancer.

Magnesium supplements

It’s interesting how you want to do the best for your health and well-being by taking supplements, but if you’re just blindly taking them, you may as well stop and save yourself the time and effort.

Case in point.

I made the mistake of buying the wrong magnesium not once, but twice.

I’ll tell you where the mistake lies.

Both of my magnesium supplements had Magnesium Oxide (i.e. MgO), which is poorly absorbed by the body.

MgO supplements contain 60% magnesium but they’re less bioavailable and for this reason are poorly absorbed by the body.

On the other hand though, magnesium citrate supplements, which have 15% magnesium, are much more bioavailable that MgO and are a better choice for magnesium supplementation, according to a 1990 study published in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition.”

Basically, using the better absorbed magnesium citrate is a better bang for your buck than supplementing on MgO.

Magnesium lactate and magnesium chloride are also more bioavailable and hence better absorbed than magnesium oxide.

Just goes to show that with anything, you have to get a deep understanding of what you’re doing and immerse yourself in the subject at hand.

Taking supplements blindly isn’t good enough, you’ll spend your money, spend the time taking them, but if you’re doing it wrong – nothing’s going to come of it.

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.

 

Why Caffeine is a Poison

It’s interesting how fruits and flowers have evolved to increase their chances of survival.

You know how roses have thorns at their sides?

Well, it’s a defensive survival mechanism to keep animals from eating them.

And the seeds in apples?

Apparently, just one apple seed has enough toxins in it to kill ants on an exponential scale (harmless for humans, though.)

And coffee beans?

The survival mechanism in coffee beans is caffeine.

To insects, caffeine is poisonous whereas for humans it gives us a nice buzz.

In fact, coffee mimics the same effects as dopamine, which explains that sense of euphoria we’ve come to know and love.

Is caffeine really harmless for us?

I love caffeine but short answer: it can be.

It’s a diuretic which means it flushes out water from your body, along with essential minerals like magnesium. Which is why if you drink too much coffee, you might notice that you’re eye or pinky finger might start twitching.

So replenish that magnesium init. Cause magnesium deficiency prevents your body from making serotonin.

It dehydrates you so replenish that water init.

But also, it causes your body to release stress hormones in your body.

When you ingest caffeine, it stimulates your nervous system in the same way that a lion charging at you to eat you would stimulate your nervous system (just on a smaller scale…)

If you’re an avid coffee-drinker, you might not feel the effects of caffeine but your body definitely does because it’s still producing stress hormones to fuel your body.

Caffeine also contributes to the premature ageing and damaging of the brain if not consumed in moderation.

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