I have set only one New Year’s resolution in my entire life. I don’t remember the exact year but I think it was when I was about 26 or 27 years old. I always thought they were dumb and still do for the most part. If I was going to make a big life change I was going to start the day I decided to make that change. It seemed to me like waiting until some arbitrary date on the calendar meant it wasn’t a serious desire. Plus my view was tainted because I could never stand the influx of people who would get in my way at the gym in January and February. I couldn’t wait for them to give up on their resolutions so I could get back to my preferred routine.
But then one year I made a resolution for myself. I had decided to read 2 books per month, one fiction, one non-fiction for a year. My goal was to get a little more educated, maybe get a little smarter too. However, my main goal was to read the books my wife was reading at the same time she was reading them.
Reading has always come naturally to her, She loves it. I didn’t. But I wanted to share more deeply in that part of her life with her. I never told her that was what I was doing.
So, I began in January of that year, whichever year it was. I know the stats for the general public following through with their resolutions is dismal, but I wanted to prevail. I made it a point try as hard as I could for that year. The good news is I did it. I achieved my goal and read 24 books that year. I can’t remember anymore which books they were but that’s not the point. I had set the goal, achieved the goal, and created a lifelong habit of book consumption.
Let’s move to present day. I am still consuming at a minimum 1 book per month. I try to get in more any way possible. One of those avenues is audible. I love it and use it nearly every day. But there is just something about holding a physical book. Turning the pages. Focusing on one task. Reading. The appeal of real books is off the charts. So, along with audible, I make time when I can to read physical books too.
The books I like are the ones that make me think about who I am. When they reveal uncomfortable truths about myself and how I may not be living up to my best self it’s a hard pill to swallow. But… it is good to confront those demons head on if self-improvement is desired. For me, that is a huge priority. I want to be my best so I intentionally seek out those uncomfortable truths.
While exploring this genus of literature I have come across the ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism. When I first heard the word stoicism I immediately had it in my head that it wasn’t for me and I didn’t like it. I didn’t know anything about it but I made that decision anyway.
I was viewing that word through my inherent bias. Words are powerful and words matter. The label “Stoicism” brought me feelings and thoughts that were in line with other words like indoctrination, cult, or dogma. I, like most people, don’t like to be told what to think or how I should think it so I rejected it straight away.
The good news is I overcame this bias and dug deeper. I quickly found out how wrong my views were. I could have missed out on what is now a huge part of my worldview and thought process. So, if you have never heard of Stoicism I will try to tell you what I believe it to be at this stage of my education. To put my definition as basic as I can it is this…
Stoicism is a school of thought that says we can not control external events. We can only control ourselves. Therefore. we need to accept what others do, say, or think. If we want to be the best we can be, then we are to act, speak, and think in ways that are inline with the becoming our best version of ourselves and to not try and change what others do, say, or think.
(If you disagree with this interpretation please let me know. I would love to be educated more on the topic.)
So, as I am continuing to read books every month and gravitating to the philosophy of Stoicism. I recently picked up Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. I couldn’t put it down. I would have read it straight through if I didn’t have other things to do during the day.
It was page after page after page of truth bombs that opened my eyes more than any other book I have previously read. It is excellent at taking these ideas that are thousands of years old and interpreting them into relevant examples for today.
I am beginning to see how much I am not living up to my best self. The book is not for the faint of heart. It will challenge you and you will have to make a choice. One, you can roll over, quit and cry. You can fail to live up to the challenge of being a better person and continue drifting through your life as is.
The second option. You can step up. You can use the book to face your weaknesses and make an intentional choice to turn them into strengths.
You are probably wondering what specifically the book is about that is getting me so excited. What are these truth bombs? Im not going to tell you. Well… I am not going to tell you every detail. If I started I wouldn’t stop until the whole book was in this one blog post word for word.
But I will tell you the main theme. It is this…
Ego is the belief in ones self importance. Specifically the over confidence in that belief. Ego shows it’s face as arrogance. It shows its face as a self centered ambition that chooses your own desires to the detriment and harm of everyone else around you. When uncontrolled ego becomes the impediment to all you want to achieve in your life.
The hardest truth in the book is, you are not as important to the world as you think you are.
Like I said, its a punch in the face and its not fun. But it is so necessary for us all to hear.
After I read the whole book I wanted to implement the concepts right away. I wanted to be a better me. I wanted to be better at my job. I want to max out my life while I am still upright on the earth.
To put what I learned in to practice I began to implement this thinking during my marketing efforts to see how it would effect the results. Here is what I did…
I am on the phone almost everyday making calls to potential prospects. I am trying to entice them to let us come in and evaluate their retirement plan at their company to see if we can become the financial advisor for them and do a better job for them than their current situation. As you might suspect I get a lot of people telling me no. They say they are all set and don’t want to talk. It can get discouraging.
So what I did next was change my mind set and control my ego. First, I no longer take it personally. Before when they said no I would pull any persuasion tactic I ever learned to try and get past their rejection. I would get upset that they wouldn’t talk to me because I knew from my research that their retirement plan was not serving them well and I would be able to help them in an impactful way. Now I try to remind myself that I am not as important as I think I am. So I stopped. I stopped taking it personally. I still try to convince them that I can help but when they say no it is no big deal. It doesn’t phase me. I just move on.
Second, as you remember Stoicism is knowing that I can only control myself and nothing else. I cemented this idea into my brain. When I am calling prospects to give my pitch and they say no, again, it rolls right off. Because I know that can’t make them say yes. I can only help those that want to be helped and now that is all I am looking for. Before I would try and force my help on every person I talked to. I knew that I could solve their problem and I wanted them to let me. But they wouldn’t let me. They don’t think they need help. They don’t think there is anything wrong with their retirement plan even though I can show them the evidence to the contrary. It wasn’t going anywhere and it would be frustrating.
It is not frustrating any longer. I have completely accepted that I can’t make them decide something other than what they are going to decide. I can only help those that want help. I can only talk to those who want to talk.
The results of this second shift in mindset has been great. My demeanor and tone on the phone has completely changed. I am much more relaxed and my words flow better. I have picked up the pace of my efforts as well. I am not wasting my time on lost causes because my EGO won’t let it go. I move on. I say NEXT! Essentially my success in these efforts is a numbers game. The more people I can contact the better chance I will have finding that one person that is looking for help. I am contacting more people per week. My presentation and phone skills are on the rise. It is a far better experience now than it was before.
Well, I have now shared with you the beginning of the path of my new way of thinking. I have a lot to learn to get better but it is my chosen path. I have shown you how I am trying to implement the concepts in real life. And I have shown you my new favorite book. You should check it out if you have the courage. But as we now know I can’t make you, and I won’t even try. I will do only what I can do.