A few weeks ago, I read The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz.
To be honest, I was not motivated to read the book at first. Think big, not small, yeah, I get it. Do I really need to read a book to know that?
Still, I respected the person who recommended the book to me, so I gave it a chance. I was positively surprised. Weirdly positively surprised.
The book did not teach me anything I had not heard a dozen or a hundred times before. The ideas were nothing new to me. Not even their delivery was particularly exceptional.
Yet as you know, whenever I read a book, I read it slowly because slow reading builds a bridge between the book’s ideas and the reader’s life.
In my case, the reader’s life was dense: filled up with working, writing, podcasting, walking (my current form of meditation), and working out. I did not even train MMA because I had just moved to a smaller city that has no MMA gym. And I had literally no time to train anyway.
Then I read these lines in the book:
When you believe something is impossible, your mind goes to work for you to prove why. But when you believe, really believe, something can be done, your mind goes to work for you and helps you find the ways to do it.
I immediately thought of martial arts training. Impossible. I knew there was neither time nor a place for me to train. I knew that fighting (except for a quick daily heavy bag session) could have no place in my current life. A man has only so much time and attention. I knew it was impossible.
But I kept on reading, and soon I read this:
Eliminate the word impossible from your thinking and speaking vocabularies. Impossible is a failure word. The thought “It’s impossible” sets off a chain reaction of other thoughts to prove you’re right.
Ok, I thought, that sounds fine, but it is not realistic to eliminate an essential modality of the human mind. In my case, the truth is clear. A man has only so much time and attention.
And so I kept on reading—until I read this:
Capacity is a state of mind. How much we can do depends on how much we think we can do. When you really believe you can do more, your mind thinks creatively and shows you the way.
Despite being just another reiteration of the same idea, this broke my resistance. I frantically highlighted the quote, put two big exclamation marks next to it, and added a fat note:—BJJ!!—, and I circled the note two times, three times, four times.
All of a sudden, I knew what I had to do: I had to do my True Will.
I knew there was an opportunity for me to train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu; an opportunity the weak-willed version of myself did not want to see:
- “But BJJ is not MMA.” Well, fuck that excuse: this is my chance to acquire a good base of grappling skills!
- “But the gym is not even close to where I live.” Well, fuck that excuse: I will just have to use my travel time productively!
- “But both my work and workout routine are already devastatingly physically demanding.” Well, fuck that excuse: I must toughen up more!
- “But what if I get injured and lose my job?” Well, fuck that excuse: am I a pussy or what? I will always find a way!
- “But I will get to bed later and have less sleep to recover.” Well, fuck that excuse: If I cannot handle less sleep, I will take a brief nap after work!
- “But my time resources do not magically expand just because I have read a few pages in a book.” Well, fuck time!
So now I am back in the martial arts game. I have adjusted my strength training routine (less frequency), I have optimized my work schedule (at least the part I have control over), and I started BJJ training last month.
Will it be hard for me to manage all my activities consistently? Of course it will, and it will be even harder for me to keep up my focus and energy levels. But when there is a will—a True Will—, there is a way. And substantial indeed is the part fighting takes in my True Will!
Anyhow, this is not the lesson of this post. The lesson of this post is that my personal mindset shift from “impossible!” to “fuck it, just do it!” would not have occurred had I not been reading those classical self-help ideas that I had already heard so many, many times in the past.
As long as we improve ourselves, as long as we learn and evolve, as long as we seek to do our True Will, so long will we have to remind and re-remind ourselves of the fundamental principles of success. Self-help does not get old. To the contrary: the oldest, most trivial sounding ideas have the greatest power to lead us to new paths, new heights, new strengths.
If you are now fired up to read a science-based take on self-improvement that helps you acquire a disciplined growth mindset, check out my book Willpower Condensed.