Tag Archives: Improvement

Love The Plateau

The Juggler

I had this friend once that was really into juggling. He wasn’t that good, but for some reason he had always wanted to become a really good juggler. The kind of guy that would be able to pick up any three or four objects and juggle them for an amount of time without any problem. He’d bought several DVDs on how to juggle, and even took a workshop once at some juggling school. I hadn’t been aware that there even was juggling schools.

He studied for several weeks, and finally he was comfortable enough to start juggling in front of strangers. He usually got a pretty good reception, and for a while he even went downtown where they allowed various performers to do their thing on the street in hopes for a few spare coins. On some nights, he developed a pretty big crowd. But most of the time, there were only a few people that would stay and watch for more than a few minutes.

After a while he noticed the same people would pass by, make a comment like “oh, there’s that juggler, he’s pretty good,’ and then they’d keep walking. It got to the point where most of the people that went downtown on a regular basis got to know him, and acknowledged that he was a highly skilled juggler, but didn’t hang around to watch him. He thought about traveling to neighboring cities, where they hadn’t yet been exposed to his juggling skills, but then he began to question his whole reason for becoming a skilled juggler.

At first he just wanted to juggle, and he had some vague imagination of juggling in front of people. Then when he got a taste of how good it felt to actually do that, he wanted to juggle in front of bigger and bigger crowds. But when it go to the point where he was thinking of actively seeking out bigger and bigger crowds, rather than just spontaneously juggling wherever he happened to be, it became more of a chore, or a job, than fun hobby. Soon he went back to only juggling whenever he happened to think about it, instead of purposely setting out to juggle in front of weekend crowds.

It reminds me a little bit of the law of diminishing returns. When you first put in a little bit of effort, you get a lot of results. But as you start to put in more and more effort, you start to get less and less results. If you’ve ever gone on a diet you know what I’m talking about. It’s pretty easy to lose that first couple of pounds, but after that it just keeps getting harder and harder. Eventually you hit a plateau, and if you keep at it, your successes are really a serious of longer and longer plateaus, with intermittent jumps in success levels.

There’s even been books written about how the plateau is really where all your skills and abilities are forged. If you look at life a series of long plateaus, with intermittent jumps in skill level, it makes I easier to keep on moving forward when it often appears as though you aren’t making any progress.

This structure may have some kind of biological origin. Evolution is thought to be a series of plateaus, with intermittent jumps in mutations that over time significantly change a particular species. Even the evolution of language is thought to follow this same pattern. There are certain points in the growth of a language where it changes significantly in a relatively short amount of time, due to a variety of circumstances.

For example, English underwent a huge change around the 1400’s, known as the great tonal shift. The way English vowels are pronounced changed significantly in a couple generations. It is said that somebody speaking English after this tonal shift would not be able to communicate with someone speaking English before this tonal shift.

Even at the quantum level, the energy levels of electrons don’t change from gradually from one energy state to another. There is huge jump (the word “quantum” simply means “discrete”) from one energy level to the next. There is no in between.

It’s as if the whole basis of physical reality follows the model of plateaus in energy levels or states of matter punctuated by large intermittent changes in state. The reason behind all of this is of course a mystery, to even the smartest theoretical physicists. It just seems completely strange, and pretty cool, how whatever law that makes an electron follow the discreet energy level model lead to somebody being on a plateau punctuated by intermittent successes in weight loss.

They say that the universe is a hologram of itself. If you take any small piece of matter, and look at it, it will be of the same structure and makeup as the whole system. Electrons orbiting atomic nuclei behave the same way as planets orbiting a sun. Just like there are discreet energy levels of electrons in a hydrogen atom, there are discreet elliptical orbital paths of the planets in our solar system.

So next time you feel “stuck” on a plateau, know that you are in good company.


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Powerful Metaphysics

Powerful Metaphysics

How To Maximize The Golden Feedback You Get From Others

Sometimes when you are in the process of learning something new, it can help tremendously to get an objective, outside opinion on your progress. I say sometimes, because obviously if you are doing something like practicing your T-shot, you can pretty much check your progress yourself.

But when you are doing things that are much more personal, and much more subjective, it can be hard to tell if you are making any progress. This is largely due to how the brain processes, stores and uses information. This is also the reason that when people successfully apply things like the “Law Of Attraction,” it seems like the world has magically fulfilled their wishes.

No matter what changes you’ve made, small or large, they will seem normal.

Let me explain.

Lets say you are terribly afraid of elevators. Every time you approach an elevator, your palms get cold and clammy, your heart starts to palpitate, you imagine plunging painfully to your death, and then decide to take stairs. All this is happening inside your brain, due to your own particular history and how you’ve decided to code your experience. This is all normal for you.

Then you go and see a hypnotist, or watch some guy on Oprah who helps people overcome irrational fears, and are vicariously cured. Or maybe you even see some seemingly disconnected event that helps you to unconsciously reframe whatever past experience gave you your fear. Whatever the reason, suddenly you are not afraid of elevators any more.

Now the first time you approach an elevator, you might notice a difference. But more than likely, what has changed is your idea of what is “normal.” All of a sudden it will just feel “normal” to get on an elevator without any feelings of fear or anxiety. You will obviously remember taking the stairs before, but you won’t likely remember the actual fear, since it’s gone.

To get an idea of what this is like, try and remember first learning how to read. Try to remember the feeling of looking at a bunch of squiggly lines on a piece of paper, or on the board at school, and having no idea what they mean. Or try to remember riding bike for the first time, and not being able to keep your balance.

While you may remember the actual event, sitting in a chair at school, or riding your bike for the first time, you’ll likely have a difficult time remembering the feelings of confusion, difficulty, or anxiety that often comes with learning.

As you become more skilled, your brain simply readjusts what is “normal.” It continually updates your definition.

The upshot of this is that you have an unlimited capacity for learning and improving skills in virtually all areas of your life. The drawbacks to this is that in many life skills, (social skills, public speaking skills, writing and persuasion skills) you may be improving drastically, by leaps and bounds, but it doesn’t feel like it because you are always “normal.” This can lead to frustration if you aren’t seeing specific results, like when you improve your T shot, or free throw percentage.

The best way to keep your motivation high is to figure out some way to measure your progress. This can be done by soliciting the advice of people that can be objective.

For an example of public speaking, Toastmasters is really good for this. They have a system where after every speech; you are critiqued objectively by a sometimes-complete stranger. So you can be sure that any feedback you get is useful and helpful in drastically improving your public speaking skills in a relatively short amount of time.

Feedback is perhaps the most valuable thing when you are improving anything. One of the traps of feedback is that many people avoid it, due to a fear of being judged, or rejected, or having their deepest, most secret fears laid bare. Many people feel that if the feedback they receive isn’t one hundred percent positive, then it means they are a failure. This attitude only keeps you stuck in your present level of skill.

But in reality, feedback is simply feedback. It only has meaning that you give it. And when you consistently use feedback to help you improve, you’ll be light years ahead of most people on the planet.

Exposure Yourself to Wonderful Success

I have a friend who is a fairly successful person. He is the area manager for a particular large manufacturing company. We were talking over lunch a few weeks ago about our lives, and how we came to be where we are. One of those lazy conversations on a Saturday afternoon, when you don’t have any specific plans, and are content to allow the conversation to flow wherever it wants to go, you can decide to just go along for the ride.

He used to be a line manufacturing technician. These are the guys that work on the assembly line, and are in charge of only one aspect in the larger manufacturing process. He had noticed that there were changes they the company could make, that would save them a lot of money. And not a lot of money in the long term, possible future. A lot of money, right here, right now.

And he went home and told his wife, and his wife of course suggested he bring it up at the next meeting. After all, he was pretty well regarded at his job, since he’d been there for a few years, and had a good record. But my friend was worried for some reason. He kept coming up with excuses why he didn’t want to express himself at the meeting. Luckily for him, and his company, his wife knew him well enough to see that these were merely excuses, and not the real reason. And his wife was also wise enough to let him discover the real reason in his own time, without any extra pressure from her.

Some people, when they notice a friend or loved one making a mistake, or living life less than with complete resourcefulness, tend to pressure the person with short term tactics that usually backfire. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Many times it’s better to discover things on your own than to be told about them.

So my friend kept going to work, and the more he saw that his ideas would definitely improve the bottom line of the company, the more anxious he got. When I asked him about he said that if he told them, they would almost surely promote him. Why would that be a bad thing? I asked him. If he got promoted, then he would be a supervisor, which would the next level above where he was. Then he would have to conduct meetings, and speak in front of people, and people that were new and were being trained would watch him as an example, and so on.

When he finally explained all this to his wife, she was very understanding. She said to him:

You are much more knowledgeable than you think. You have great talent. You are not doing anybody any good by hiding your talent. You may think that by bringing more attention to yourself will bring discomfort and unease, but in reality, when you express yourself, people will know how smart you really are. People will know how much you really do have to offer. And that’s important, isn’t it?

My friend said that he was really moved by his wife’s faith in him. The next day, he went and explained his idea to his foreman. They used his suggestion, saved money, and of course, promoted him. And he said a strange thing happened, something he didn’t quite expect. Because of the extra attention he got, he actually had a lot more good ideas that he was aware of. And not only that, people were more than willing to help him improve in areas where he expressed an interest, because he was quickly being recognized as somebody that was a great source of knowledge to other people.

So what you are saying, is that you owe all your success to your wife? I asked him. He just smiled, and drank his coffee.


Quickly Unlock Your Potential for Explosive Growth

What do you want to be when you grow up? Have you ever asked that question amongst your friends when you were kids? What answer did you give? When I was really young, under five I think, I wanted to be a cowboy. Then when I got a little older, I wanted to be a baseball player. I only made it until I was cut from the junior high school baseball team. Then in high school, I wanted to be a nuclear physicist.

How about you, when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did it change?

Have you ever heard that song, “don’t worry, be happy?” Catchy tune, isn’t it? Wouldn’t that be easy if you could always be happy?

How about when there was that girl or guy you wanted to talk to, but you felt a little shy or uncertain. Did you ask your friends for advice? What did they say?
“Be confident!” or “be relaxed!”

How about the advice that all parents tell their kids when they ask how to meet a special someone?
“Just be yourself!” Do you think that is good advice?

How about making friends in general? Have you ever heard the seemingly sound advice, “if you want to make a friend, be a friend?”

These all sound like good, honest truisms that might appear to help us to focus on what we want, don’t they? 

There is something, though, that I’d like to call your attention to. It is a simple shift in thinking that can help you to free your mind from unnecessarily conflict, giving you more energy to focus on what you want to achieve in life.

Be. Is. Are. Am. These are the so called “be” verbs of the English language. Linguistically, they are the same as an equals sign. So when you say “1 + 1 = 2”, you can either say “one plus one equals two,” or just as truthfully, you can say “one and one is two.”  Sounds harmless, right? But when you look under the surface just a little bit, you can see it is not as simple as it appears.

For example, lets take the simple statement “I am happy.” Sound good? Sound like something that you’d like to say, and believe? When you think of it as a mathematical equation, which is how the brain interprets it, it becomes a little bit more complicated. What else do you equate with “happy?” What do you think when you complete sentence “happiness is…”.  Whatever you come up with to complete that sentence, you are also saying that about yourself, in your mind, whenever you say “I am happy.” What if you equate some things with being happy that doesn’t really mesh well with what you personally want to feel like? For example, what if you are an athlete, and you think one day that ‘happiness is victory.’ Which means in order to be happy, somebody else has to lose. So when you say

“I am happy”

you are saying, in a sense, that

“I am making people lose.”

It might not seem like it, but whenever you use one of the “be” verbs, your mind puts all the things on the one side of the “be” equation into the category of “same” in your brain, equating all of it to the other side of the ‘be’ verb.

What if one of your goals in life is to “be happy?”  When you tell yourself “I want to be happy,” do you really mean it? Do you want to be happy when you come across an accident victim needing help? Do you want to be happy when you break your arm?

If this sounds strange and nonsensical, it is only because most people don’t take a critical view of the words that we use on a daily basis. Our language is largely unconscious, and sometimes we speak in a manner that isn’t totally supportive of ourselves.

The brain acts like a powerful computer, much more powerful that we’ll probably ever understand. And it also operates extremely fast. As a consequence, it takes huge amounts of incoming data, thoughts, images, sounds, textile feelings, and sorts them into categories as quickly as possible. When we use ‘be’ verbs, we  basically tell our brain which categories to use.

How do we get around this simple yet powerful concept? Stop using the ‘be’ verbs as much as possible. When you think about it, all that you see, trees, people, buildings, are changing processes. Nothing is static. All is undergoing flux, all the time. So nothing, in reality, ever “is.” Nothing is ever frozen in time. People grow, people change, thoughts change endlessly, one into the next.

Instead of saying “I am happy,” try saying “I feel happy.” Instead of making it your life purpose to “be happy,” try making it your life purpose to “feel happy when appropriate.”  Instead of saying “Be yourself,” try saying “behave in a manner that honestly represents both your desires and what you can offer others.”
Instead of saying “I’m so stupid,” when you make a mistake, simply say “I made a mistake.” Take whatever statement you want to make, and exchange the ‘be’ verb for a more appropriate action verb.

If this sounds like a trivial semantic argument, try this for a few days, and you’ll really notice a change. When you start to understand yourself as an ever changing, never static process, life can become much more satisfying. Always growing, always changing, always improving.