Finally reading 33 Strategies of War

Despite Ryan Holiday recommending this so many times… I am so intensely aware of the weakness of my will, my procrastination, inability to follow through, of my humanity, that I put off reading this book indefinitely.

I assumed it will be full of theories and intellectual ideas.

I knew they’d be brilliant, but that I would not be able to put them to use, until I train myself to follow through.

Not true.

From calming our overwhelming emotions to our addiction to comfort to our lack of energy in life… It’s all about ruthlessly looking at reality — at what we actually do instead of what we hope to be doing — and using that knowledge to win at life.

In general, with regards to books on war, my mistake was thinking war people are superior to me. That they were somehow born without my inherent weaknesses as a human… They aren’t.

This book made me realize that in the same way money does not make you a better person, only revealing more of who you already are…

War, desperation, and high stakes do the same.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

Like Cortes, you must locate the root of your problem. It is not the people around you; it is yourself, and the spirit with which you face the world.

It’s full of gems like this. Read it. It’s fantastic.

Definitely reading more war books after The 33 Strategies of War (Joost Elffers Books).

Good at rationalizing poor behavior? Learn to ask better questions.

In school, one of my greatest strengths was rationalizing.

I was really good at answering essay questions. I could get away with not knowing the “correct” answer, as long as i can defend my answer.

When I joined the real world, I thought… Business only deals with reality. The real world will judge me according to my results, not my intelligent reasoning.

My cleverness is now useless.

So I decided henceforth, I am going to be the “hustler” type, and declared my intelligence unproductive.

But I realized the “good at rationalizing in school” is useless because the questions — What effect did X event cause? Why did Y die? or whatever — were unproductive.

We learned to ask unproductive questions too:

“Why does this always happen to me?”
“Why the hell is that fucker getting in my way?”
“Why am I always making dumb mistakes?”

But no one’s giving us tests and asking us unproductive questions now… Why not put our rationalizing brains to our advantage by asking ourselves better questions?

Questions like:

  • What is great about this problem?
  • What is not perfect yet?
  • What am I willing to do to make it the way I want it?
  • What am I willing to no longer do in order to make it the way I want it?
  • How can I enjoy the process while I do what is necessary to make it the way I want it?

[Source: “Problem-solving questions” from Awaken the Giant Within : How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny!]

Yes, those questions are biased towards the positive aspects of a problem.

That’s the point.

Your brain will diligently and intelligently come up with good answers anyway, shifting your focus from negative to positive, unproductive to productive, problems to solutions.

Instead of rationalizing poor behavior, your clever answers will help you take better actions.

Yesterday, a big ass truck was making a U-turn in a small road, which became a bottleneck for me and everyone else in the intersection.

I noticed my brain shouting, “What the hell is he doing????” Very unproductive.

It puts me in an angry, unproductive state. Plus, no answer to that question would lead me to a solution.

Then I remembered “smart people should ask better questions.”

So I asked myself, “What can I learn from this?”

At first, I thought, “Nothing! What could I possibly learn from this!!!!”

Then silently, a thought came up, “Don’t be an asshole.”

Then I laughed, watched the truck finish making its U-turn, and jaunted away.

Don’t be an asshole.

This is how motivated I am to go to the gym

You’re lucky you’re so motivated to go to the gym.

I get this a lot from people who wish they also go.

Even when I explain that it didn’t come naturally… That I started going to the gym in 2009, managed to go regularly only in 2012, and that I’ve been doing this for almost 5 years… They just nod and say, “I could never do that.”

I fall into this trap too.

Whenever I see someone who’s achieved something I want, something I’ve tried (and failed at) a few times…

Even when I know it takes hard work and that I can do it too, if I give it enough time, I sigh and say, “I could never do that.”

Why? Nobody talks about the ugly process.

It’s easy to say after the fact, that it’s hard for everyone.

That it takes time.

That this does not come naturally for anyone.

But few people share the process while it happens — of achieving small wins, building up momentum, etc. Not surprising. The process is not glamorous nor sexy at all.

No wonder it’s hard to remember you’re not the only one who sucks at this! To not get discouraged when you’re just starting and comparing yourself to someone who’s been doing it for years.

That’s why I thought it would be useful to share…

My drive to the gym tonight

Despite being a regular gym-goer for almost 2 years, on days like these, I still had to push myself to go.

Instead of driving to the gym, I wanted to go to the bookstore first, “just to check out some books.”

But I know I won’t get out alive (without buying a new book). And after buying a book, I’ll probably be so excited to open my new book and end up not going to the gym.

Here’s what I had to do during the drive:

  • Verbalize the decision: I shouted to myself, “I’ve decided I’m going to the gym” several times.
  • Reduce delay of reward: Whenever I make a turn that leads me to the gym, I pat my head and…
  • Reduce delay of reward pt. 2: Made several big grins to myself

Shouting at myself, patting myself on the head, grinning like an idiot… If you saw me, I’m sure you would’ve thought I’d gone crazy.

Sounds silly and petty. But that’s what I had to do to make myself go to the gym sometimes. And it happens more often than you think.

Thing is, I did it.

I went to the gym and did what I said I’d do. It’s a small win that lets me build momentum and be the kind of person who goes to the gym regularly.

Someone people consider “lucky to be so motivated to go the gym.”

So respect the process. Don’t feel silly when you achieve small wins. That’s the stuff “overnight” successes are made of.