What is the key to success?
If you look around, you are surrounded by it.
It’s as simple as this, see what most people are doing and do something different.
Simple as that.
The Science Behind Being Different
Do you remember the last time you were uncomfortable?
What did you do?
If you’re like most people, your amygdala took over and your response to the uncomfortable situation led to worry, anxiety, maybe even fear.
Most of us do not like feeling uncomfortable and when we do, what do we do?
We “circle the wagons.”
We pull ourselves in.
And worst of all, we stop thinking creatively.
When we feel fear, our brain and body go into “survival mode.” What Nobel-winning psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, called “thinking fast.”
The discomfort sounds the alarm, you get ready for the tiger to jump out at you from the bushes, or the enemy tribe attacking you as they running at you from over the hill.
You view the discomfort as something that you have to protect yourself from.
And almost everybody does this each and every day, almost at every moment in their lives.
But it’s not the discomfort that makes us worry, it’s our perception of the discomfort.
Have you ever ridden a roller-coaster? Waiting in line, seeing the monstrosity of twisted metal, and the loud noises as the train of passengers scream thru the loops, dips, and curves.
What about a scary movie? Waiting in suspense as the protagonist (or next victim) is walking through the dark, shadowy, house. You’re anticipating the psycho to pop out at any time.
How does that discomfort make you feel?
For some it’s fear, for others, it’s excitement.
Simon Sinek explains it really well in this short video.
Are you nervous or excited?
You see you can train yourself to view uncomfortable situations as either a good thing or a bad thing.
And that is what successful people do relative to everybody else.
Going Against the Current
I get it.
We are social creatures.
We like to feel like we belong.
But we, as human beings, are also able to choose the tribe that we belong to.
Once upon a time, we were locked in geographically, genetically, and geo-politically into our tribe.
But no longer.
For the past decade now, I have been taking online classes. In those classes, I have met people from all over the globe.
We get together to learn what is important to us and in that process, we discover how we are more similar than we are different.
And that realization has helped me to break free from the crowd of my local neighborhood.
And you can too.
Choose to go against the current.
Choose to do something different.
Choose to tread a new path.
But Be Careful With Going in the Opposite Direction
Going against the current is not always the best alternative.
All too often, when told to go against the current, people immediately imagine salmon, leaping, rushing, and swimming upstream.
Often into the mouth of a savvy, smart bear waiting on the bank of the river.
Contrarians everywhere like to do the opposite of the crowd. Sometimes for no other reason than just because…
That leaves you with an interesting quandary.
Leave one crowd trying to make their way the best they can only to end up with another crowd who is just gumming up the works to show that they can.
That can leave you in a tough spot.
So which way do you go?
But There Is Always A Third Way
Master Han felt it was important to apply the techniques in a dynamic environment (sparring) as quickly as possible. He knew knowledge without application is wasted.
So as an orange belt, we would begin to learn how to spar, practicing striking and blocking against one another.
As beginners though, it is like you are on railroad tracks, one student charging forward to attack the other, and the defender retreating backward, fearful of the barrage, only stopping when coming up against the wall of the dojang.
For me, being a physically small guy, I was generally on the receiving end of these charges.
Which had me ending up a little banged up, but no worse for wear, because I retreated until I couldn’t anymore as I would eventually hit the wall and then get hit by my training partner.
There had to be a better way.
And the instructors kept telling us the way.
Get off the railroad tracks, stop moving just back and forth.
So, I decided to try an experiment. I would show up early before class, even before anybody else was there.
One thing I loved about GM Han’s dojang was that it was open to all of his students from noon until closing at 10 pm, as a member, you could train as much as you wanted on the mat.
He even encouraged it but few students took him up on the offer. (There’s that breaking from the crowd analogy I mentioned.)
Orthodox fighting position
I would show up around 3 or 4 pm, a couple of hours before classes started, and began to design drills to work on.
The first one was movement drills so that I could get off of the railroad tracks of sparring. It was a very simple exercise, from my basic “fighting stance,” I would begin practicing moving in the 8 basic directions, starting with either foot.
Every day, I would practice moving my feet without tripping myself up, first with my rear foot, going in any of the 8 directions to get my center-of-mass away from where I started.
Then do the same thing with my lead foot, again moving in any of the 8 directions to get my red-dot center of mass away from the incoming attack.
Day after day, I would practice these drills until I could easily move in any direction.
I then added a twist, literally.
In sparring, my training partner, in his attack is basically trying to get on top of me (the red dot).
So as I practiced moving around, I would add a spin, turning to face toward the red dot, putting me in position to counter his attack.
This one drill made a huge difference for me as a beginner martial artist.
It was no longer that I was trying to hit my partner or avoiding being hit in return. I could not confidently be there, letting him come in so that I could deflect and avoid the attack and move around him for a counter-attack, or at the very least not get hit!
This was a game-changer for me.
I finally began to relax, not feel as much fear or anxiety, which allowed me to come up with creative ways to engage with my training partners.
This would have taken much longer if I was locked in the fight or flight response of the amygdala and not being able to come up with creative ways to deal with the situation.
Putting It On the Mat for Yourself
So what can you do?
What success or achievement are you working toward? And what are the people around you with the same goal doing?
What can you do differently?
How can you stand out?
Who can you reach out to who has already achieved your goal and seek out their wisdom, experience, and input?
What third way can you come up with?
And who can you find to support you on that path?