How a nervous breakdown after a divorce made me exponential.
The odometer climbed past 95 on a late Friday afternoon as I navigated the speedway connecting Houston and Dallas. Dallas was the agreed upon rendezvous point, halfway between Oklahoma City and Houston. When I stopped for gas, a barrage of “where are you” texts from the ex-wife inundated my phone. When I finally arrived, my daughter leaped to me, and I caught her in mid-air. The next four hours were spent driving home again.
We spent the next day at the beach in Galveston at a secluded spot and built and destroyed sand castles on the beach for several hours. We ended the day watching boats and the sunset at the Boardwalk in Kemah. Sunday after church, I brought her back to Dallas, and I drove back to Houston with a heavy heart.
The odometer climbed past 100 late that Sunday night as I was racing against exhaustion. I barely missed the tires of a semi as I drifted from my lane. I focused on the allure of the bed I would go home to and fought off sleep. When I did make it home, the Oasis of the bed was a mirage. I was wide awake and so exhausted I was beyond sleep. The hours seemed like days as I replayed how I got to this point. With the 5:00 AM taunt of the alarm clock and work-life overwhelm stalking me, I finally broke down.
“How can I be so successful in my professional life, a superstar software engineer and self-proclaimed hacker, and yet personally my software was so buggy?”
That was the question I asked when I started to hack my life and became limitless. Below are the seven strategies that I have used to become exponential.
1. When I focus on money, I am poor. When I focus on time, I am rich.
I burned 16 hours every month driving instead of flying in an attempt to save money. I was exhausted and fatigued and the rest of the work week was a monumental struggle. By focusing on how do I save my time instead of money, I found out about travel hacking and since then I only fly and found out it’s cheaper than driving. I discovered that I had clung to an old mental bias of “flying costs more than driving,” which is never true when you take into account the cost of time. I also realized it wasn’t my bias but one I had adopted from my ex-wife. Now, I apply lateral thinking to every problem I face.
How do you think laterally? First, write down all the facts of the problem. Next, focus on the baggage (biases, knowledge and experience) you bring to the problem. Lastly, play the game of “What if.” The question what if I flew to see my daughter made all the difference in my world.
2. Water is the ultimate cheat code.
Remember the movie Limitless and the drug NZT? H20 is real life NZT. Water is vital to every cell and every biological process. Your brain is 75-80% water, so a lack of water impacts mental function. Dehydration leads to higher cortisol levels which leads to more stress. Stress leads to your body revving the engine higher and demanding more water intake to function which can lead to more dehydration and the vicious cycle perpetuates! When stressed, make sure you are drinking more water. Try to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water per day and more if you are active.
3. Clarity is king.
Lack of clarity is why the life we have is not the life we envisioned. We need bulletproof strategies in order to align our vision with our reality. The level of detail you can put into your strategies will reflect the result you get. Chess is won by having strategies that are five-ten steps ahead of what is happening now. Be a grandmaster of your life.
4. Create blisses, not goals or plans.
Don’t create goals or plans. Those are milestones and tactics. Build strategies and let the results be inevitable. I create a BLISS. BLISS stands for Brain-dead, Least effort, Integrated, and Sustainable Strategy.
I found that strategies that work best are ones that you don’t have to think about (Brain-dead), expect me to be lazy (Least efforts), are not contradictory to other strategies (Integrated) and lastly are easy to maintain (sustainable). For my health strategy, I made it a habit to always carry a water bottle and sip all the time. Inevitably, my health improved.
5. Be a Zen a-hole.
To be at Zen, you have to be a Zen A-hole. You need to honor your anger and dark emotions as well as your sunny emotions. When you do this, you will ease up, and that wasted energy you were using to mute your negative emotions will be freed up. Emotional Agility is important because you need to be able to know when to push the nuke button and when to chill. Nuking all the time or being chill all the time doesn’t work as being a perpetual doormat/a-hole will not get you the life you want.
6. Crowdsource the minutia.
Pareto’s principle states that 80% of your results comes from 20% of your work. Why aren’t you delegating the other 80% of your work? You are meant to bat cleanup and hit homeruns. Let others get on base and advance the runner. We are at peak productivity wise when we focus on tasks that will make the most impact.
7. Adapt what works.
“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own” – Bruce Lee
You need to follow your path. People may give you advice, you may read books or articles, or even coach you but in the end, you need to see what works for you and adapt as you go.
Photo: Flickr/ MIitrabhanu Panda