That question came from the end of the phone, with a cute giggle, a sweet voice and I was picturing a mischievous smile of a Southern African beauty who had happened to also swipe right on Tinder.
This was our first conversation and (she) made an impression. The question stuck with me…and I wanted to write a piece on why I’m always throwing myself into new projects.
Trying something new can be daunting.
As we leave our comfort zones and venture into the unknown and ego busting world of the new, our inner voice can often stop us as we wonder: ” Why am I doing this? Do I look stupid? How come I’m not getting this right?”
Now while this might not feel good- it is perfectly normal and good for us.
Psychologist Gary Marcus, in an article with CNN, quoted that Aristotle realized “there is a difference between the pleasures of the moment (hedonia), and the satisfaction that comes from constantly developing and living one’s life to the fullest (eudaimonia). In recent years, scientists have finally begun to study eudaimonia.
Research suggests that the greater sense of purpose and personal growth associated with eudaimonia correlates with lower cortisol levels, better immune function and more efficient sleep.”
As we get older and more comfortable in our ways we often let the fear of the unknown stop us. We make excuses saying that we are too old, not good enough, or just plain busy.
Yet if we can get this past this, we can often experience the most exhilarating, challenging and memorable moments for ourselves.
I believe that everyone should embrace this concept and throw themselves into trying new things, and new experiences. Why you ask?
Well here are a few reasons I have found:
– Creates New Synapses in your Brain. Research has shown that when we do new activities or activities which force the brain to think differently we begin the process of creating new synapses in the brain. This means that areas that were not connected before, begin to start building synapses or bridges to get themselves connected. They are like highways of information that send signals to each other. If we are good at a certain ways of thinking then those parts of the brain will have super highway type synapses which send the information quickly. Where’s those synapses that we rarely use, (for me that’s high school calculus and trigonometry :P), signals travel slowly as if it was a dirt road, its bumpy, slow and uncomfortable. And of course there are those roads which haven’t even been built yet or been discovered so your brain doesn’t even know how to use them. These feel the most uncomfortable but can be the most rewarding – like learning a new language, navigating a new city or skill like riding a motorbike.
Now the above might sound trivial – but it actually is not. It is the beginning of genius (excuse the hyperbole) and I believe this leads to breakthrough, transformation and innovation.
The dots connect in the most unexpected ways. An example of this is that is often quoted is Steve Jobs and Apple’s defining features being its beautiful use of function and form with sleek, stylish design. In the early days of Apple, one of its key differentiators was its typography used in its graphical user interface (GUI). Jobs found this after he quit university and started taking random classes, one of which was a typography class that he found interesting. Years later he used this knowledge in the creation of the Apple logo and typeface.
– Keeps you Humble. Just 8 weeks ago, I started my first formal salsa class at Latin Dance Academy Studios in Broadway. What an amazing experience it has been. When I look back I’m amazed at how far I have come. I feel that I am a confident person in most situations. At work, I’m a senior technology sales person. At Karate, i’m a black belt. At NLP, I’m an NLP Coach and Trainer. That however, counted for nothing when I stepped on the dance floor! The awkward smiles that my partners gave me. The nervousness of grabbing a woman around the waist and dancing closely. The frustration of not getting it right. Being off the beat. I thought I looked silly looking at my feet – yet I was feeling awkward gazing into my partner’s eyes. All the while the South American latino boys are twirling woman around like it ain’t nobody’s business… and i’m two stepping my way to hell ! This shit was supposed to be fun right… after 2 hours of my first class my brain was mush! Everybody was better than me and I felt like I was holding the class back asking silly questions. The following week wasn’t any better.
But I stuck with it…. and I have to say my confidence has increased. Just last week, 2 women said they like dancing with me! And it was a pleasure to dance with someone that was “having fun” instead of trying to see how many moves they can fit into a song. On a current trip to Kuala Lumpur, I was social dancing and met cool people in a latin dance club which is always great when your traveling on business and feel the need for company. Dancing has made me more confident at work, with women, a greater understanding of movement, music and my body.
The whole processes was humbling and after only 8 weeks greatly satisfying. It taught me that learning a new skill is not hard if we can get over the initial mindset hump. We need to train our brain to learn new things like we train any muscle. The more often we throw ourselves into these situations our bodies and brains will adapt.
One NLP teacher of mine, Quentin Strauli, a legend in the Australian NLP community who is probably over 60 years old (I’m guessing), inspired me recently when he told me he was learning the piano. He said it keeps him curious and that what he learns there can be translated into other areas of his life.
With the bigness that the world is, i’m sure we all can find new ways to connect those synapses throughout our life.
– You Learn How to Learn. With everything you do, whether you are consciously aware of it or not – YOU have a strategy. And by strategy, I mean a sequence of steps, much like a recipe, that we run through automatically in order to achieve a specific outcome.
Notice next time how you buckle your seat belt, cross your arms, brush your teeth, tie your shoelace or wake up in the morning. I guarantee it will be the same way every time Hence you have a strategy how to get those things done because you have done it so many times. Notice that its not always the best strategy… but its one that has worked so we do it.
My learning strategy was challenged when I first started learning with Guro Jimmy Dela Cruz in Escrima which is a Filipino Stick Fighting Art. Every time the class was just about to nail a pattern that he taught us, like i mean we were about 70% there … he would switch it up. He did this for about 3 weeks before our beginner class out of frustration asked him why he did this just when we were about to get it perfect ! He mentioned it was because his intention wasn’t t to teach us the pattern, but to teach us the pattern of learning patterns…and so in the short term its frustrating because you feel like you are learning nothing and nothing is complete. However after a few weeks and if you stick to it and trust your subconscious mind you actually learn faster than ever before.
Its almost as if one day it just clicks in and everything starts working.
I have taken this concept into all my learning now. The more often I can throw my brain in chaos – the faster it picks up the strategies and patterns needed for success in that particular use case.
– You Meet New People. This can challenge your worldview and wipe away filters that you’ve been seeing the world through and create new more empowering filters to view it through. I can change your paradigm of thinking and provide you with new distinctions; easily and effortlessly if we are open to the exploration and “play” with the concepts put forward to us.
As Einstein says:
“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”
Get out of your current circle of friends and go meet somebody new. This is daunting as we look to find common ground with strangers or people with a different world view. But trust me when I say it gets easier with practice and the rewards are immense. I spoke to my Uber driver who I discovered was building a mobile app while in Brisbane, I went dancing with my new salsa friends weeknights at the Argyle, and most recently while in Malaysia I’ve been hanging out and living with a work colleague who is 10 years my senior. I can’t really put into words how they’ve each changed my worldview but I know that it has.
– You Discover Hidden Talents. You may have heard the old adage that. “if you don’t try that you will never know”. I couldn’t agree more with it. Recently I started blogging. A friend of mind Dario Phillips, told me that he he had a practice of waking up in the morning and just writing for 15 minutes per day whatever was in his head and that the whole process was cathartic and allowed him to “empty his mind before the day” and rid himself of writers block. So i decided to start blogging as a stepping stone to see where my passion would take me and how that might one day translate into a book.
Can you imagine my astonishment when I got 14,353 hits on a post I wrote on leadership and 1,456 hits on I did about my experiences on Tinder ! People were getting value from what I was writing – a skill I never knew I had! So who knows what lies inside of you that is bursting to get out in a form of expression that you may not have known that you have a special gift or talent for. What would have happened if Pele never picked up a soccer ball, Usain Bolt’s teacher never told him to try sprinting and give up on his fast bowler ambitions or if Shakespeare picked up a quill! There may be a dancer, singer, poet or Einstein hiding inside you right now.
So in conclusion:
The world is a big place. Possibilities are endless. You are limitless. Explore your potential by trying something new tomorrow. Broaden those horizons and get a fresh perspective. It may be a small step or a big leap outside of your comfort zone.
And then write and tell me about it.
Comment below and tell me what you tried and how your mindset changed or altered and the results and feelings you experienced.
I would love to hear from YOU!