Competition Vs Cooperation

February 19, 2021

I’ve been racking my brain around this concept for the last 31 years of my life; or, at the very least, as long as I can remember. Our society wrestles with some fundamentally opposing world views: that of the individual, striving to be the “Greatest of All”, alone at the “Top of the Mountain” and that of the one who works with others to create and advance a better world around him. The two really are at odds with one another just be definition: “individualism” vs “collectivism”. This is the duality at the heart of Western Society and I truly believe it is at the heart of so much mental, emotional and physical unrest. We strive to be “better” than the next person, or again, at the very least not “as bad as” this person or that person. But what an exhausting and unending race. A forever game. Now I forgot who said it, so I’ll pull up the google but a wise man said “you win the race the day you stop racing” or something to that affect.

It was Bob Marley, go figure. That man had it understood.

But back to my ramblings. Since starting this paradigm shifting journey that is the podcast and my open exploration of the distance between the heart and the mind, I have wrestled with my own roots of understanding. You see, I come from a family that has such immense pride, on both sides. Now pride isn’t such a bad thing, but it really can get in the way of ones learning and growth. The most dangerous place to be in the world is to think that you know it all. News flash: you and I will never know it all. The day you think you got it all planned out, either you begin to die or you will be humbled.

So to return to the argument and the clash between the ubermincshes of Nitechizsm and the Egalitarian Romantic Idealism of Marxism AKA being the individual soley on top of the world and working towards cultivating a shared and equitable society. One must understand the importance of balance. Without balance there is chaos and trust me when I say this, no society runs on positivity. If that were true, then we could all think ourselves to prosperity. But we can’t. There are limitations. This is known in the Western World as work. We have got to do work to get to where we want and there are two very different ways of achieving this: through cooperation or competition. Both of which result in very different outcomes.

Let’s look first at competition. All throughout University, I hated doing group projects. Why? Because the work load was never balanced, or so I felt. Someone was always doing more and that just didn’t seem fair to me. You might have someone who was so controlling that they did everything, thereby rendering me useless; or, I had to do a lot because nothing was getting done. I once did a project with another guy and we had a great time. Drinking beers and shooting the shit but ultimately we got nothing done and put together something so half-assed that all our peers laughed at how clearly aloof we appeared in our work.

For my naïve self, I saw it as a wake up call: you want something done right, you better go do it yourself.

Well, that made for a very difficult next few years of my life. As you expand in your success, be it a business or any concentrated effort, there is only so much one person can handle before they have to share the load. If you are able to handle all your endeavors single-handedly, congrats, but there is a point of critical mass or a ceiling from which you can’t move passed as a single person. You need someone to help lift the ceiling higher. This is where sharing the load comes in, now as a boss or a leader, you will by nature always(or should always) be doing more than those following you. If you are not doing more than your employees then, my dear friend whom I respect, you are a shitty leader (this is Leadership 101). Expressed simply: leaders do more than their employees to run successful companies; however, they do not do everything. They give people tasks and divide things among others. They also develop a connection to the individual on a human level and if they can’t then make sure someone is.

 Another aside, if you can’t make a human connection with your employee, than they might not be the right fit or your business is growing and you need to find someone who you can connect with and who can connect with them. I’m no genius but if I’m not mistaken, I think they call these people Supervisors or Assistant Managers…

The point is, you can’t be successful at life by yourself. You need to share the load. You need to cooperate with others and see their success as your success. Simply put (because I like keeping things simple as it has always helped me to get the information I needed): when you prosper, I prosper and when I prosper, you prosper. This is information that seems to be lost amongst our Western Society, especially places like Social Media where “influencers” poach “followers” for their own personal popularity and not the growth of a real community. It happens to me all the time, can’t you sense my bitterness? Really though, why the hell are you following me so I can follow you and then you unfollow me? That’s the most childish shit I can think of… but allow me to catch my own judgement and self-righteousness, if we are not careful, we can all be playing the silly and pointless game of competition. So I’ll stop my finger waving and redirect my focus to myself. The moral of my rantings are that we have to be careful of the community we sow and what we hate most in others is usually just a mirror’s reflection of our own insecurities and frustrations.

So rather than admonishing the shortcomings of “influencer” culture, ask yourself (as I ask myself the same thing): why are you getting caught up in the non-sense? In the game without end? There are plenty of people who are authentic and genuinely want to make the world a better place, the thing is that they aren’t always as obvious and openly visible as the misdirected “changers” among us who really just want fame and fortune so they can sip champagne on a yacht (oddly specific? It’s because I’m definitely guilty of this). It all comes back to balance. We can’t be purely cooperative, there will always be some individuals who will abuse privileges and want more, just look at how Marxism worked in practicality: not well.[1] We also have to make sure that we have a strong support network of people who truly have our backs, or else we can become jaded when we find ourselves being “used”[2]. Also, never wait around for people to do what you want to be doing, lest you wait forever. If you want to do something or want to share something with the world, fucking do it already. In the age of the Internet, there is truly an audience for everything and I mean everything. If you want to write a book about Space Exploring Giraffes, a guaren-goddamn-tee you will make a millions of dollars.[3]

And my last point, in keeping with the theme of balancing between the two fields of cooperation and competition, or, collectivism and individualism respectfully; it is okay to experience financial success for what you create and provide for the world. Just don’t make that the sole purpose of what you do. Robin Williams talked about the harms of being so successful that people just artificially goad of you and de facto not your people. Charlamagne Tha God talked about this with Kayne and how disconnected he was due to his massive success. Kayne had a paid posse of people telling him that everything he did was “amazing” and “unprecedented” that it gave him a god complex, literally.[4] Honesty is salvation and salvation is painful, so just be careful of what you reap in this world because you likely will receive it. Keep the balance, enjoy the fruits of your labor, but never live like you think you are the King of All Men because you will be humbled at some point and the worst time to be humbled is upon your death bed because you have no chance at changing the story.[5] Ultimately, there are no bad people in this world, just lost people.

In conclusion, thank you for reading this. I enjoyed writing it. To pretentiously quote a genius, Richard Bach, “we teach best what we most need to learn” and I am no exception to this truism. I need to learn, which is what I strive to do daily. It has benefited my greatly and I fundamentally believe it will help you too. So let’s stop competing to be on top of the mountain and enjoy this most precious journey called life together. Keep the balance and God bless!

Robert Grant


[1] Don’t take my word for it, read a history book on Siberian Gulags.

[2] We got to get away from this language. If you are making yourself so available that you are being taken for granted, then maybe you need to reflect upon yourself and ask why you are being taken advantage of. Don’t be an easy target unless you can handle the consequences of being vulnerable.

[3] This is hereby a record of this idea, so if this comes out, I expect royalties. Thank you.

[4] No for real, you can search this shit up. I’m not lying he has compared himself to Jesus, his sixth-studio album is called Yeezus for God’s sakes. Pun intended.

[5] Because your cocky misdirected ass is dead.

Goal Reorienting: Achieving Success Through Consistency

May 3, 2020

Last Sunday I wrote about the need to reintroduce some routine and structure into my life. The current circumstances of COVID-19 has made it far too easy for me to formulate excuses to not have a rigid schedule. I can’t go to the gym because it is closed. I can’t get up early because I could wake everyone. I can’t go to be early because I have to watch one more episode on Netflix. As I write them out, I see the truth for what it is, my own laziness and my quickness to blame my situation on external factors. Yes, excuses. The reality is that I am the one who needs to adapt. So I decided to challenge myself in going to be every night at a reasonable time and getting up at 5am to start a specific morning routine.

That was last week and as promised, I thought I would share how it went. My goal is not to bore you with the details so I will try and be as succinct as possible. The purpose is for me to be honest with you so I can be more honest with myself. That night after writing the article, we had some friends over. I stayed up to late. Had too much wine. Ate too much food. So as you can imagine, when the alarm went off at 4:55AM, I hit the snooze button faster than cowboy in a wild west shootout. Off to a great start.

“Whoa, mind blown! I never knew it was that easy!”

I eventually did find the “strength” to get out of bed quarter after six. Rather than beat myself up, I acknowledged that this was an improvement from any single day the previous week. Improvement. Success. Getting better. But not where I want to be. Now the interesting thing about my relationship with goals, is that one failure often times makes me want to quit. Maybe you are the same way. Now I could get in-depth into the psychology of this (or what I think the psychology is) but allow me to be brief: for me I associate failure with shame (I could write an entire article on the reasons why). Maybe you do too? Historically, when I can’t make a goal or deadline, I collapse and give up. Rather than regroup, restructure and try again, I just throw in the towel. But that methodology is shit and I’m tired of appealing to it. So instead of beating myself up and giving up, which I was previously a master at, I decided to learn from what went wrong.   

I re-evaluated last night and looked simply at what happened without adding any emotions to it. Okay, so I had some friends over. Stayed up too late and drank wine. Clearly, I need to shut things down earlier. That’s it. No further judgements or shameful statements against myself or my decision making. Because this is what traditionally has derailed me from further pursuit of my goals. I believe that there is an inner critic in us all that keeps us from doing what we want to do. Because whenever we fail at pursuing that passion or valuable goal, the inner critic is in their glory. You suck. You knew you couldn’t do it, why did you even try? You can lie and convince them but you’re the same damn loser to me. You get the idea. The inner critic is a Bonafide prick! How do you shut it off? You just get right back to that goal. You make adjustments. So what did I do? Went to bed earlier.

Common excuses for accepting mediocrity.

The following morning? You may have guessed it. Didn’t get up at 4:55AM. Again, shoot the snooze button from the hip. I get the bullseye every time. But this time, I rolled out of bed at quarter past 5. And yes, I literally had to roll myself out of bed. While not the time I was aiming for, I saw it as another victory. I was encouraging myself. I went downstairs and did a morning routine. The only difference was that the timing was staggered by fifteen minutes. Victory. Rather than beating myself up, I kept identifying the positive and that pushed me forward. I want to clarify that acknowledging these successes is not to be confused with participation awards. You know, the ones were you go out and everyone gets a reward just for showing up. To hell with that, I still had a goal and I was going to achieve it. I just wasn’t going to succumb to the negative voices in my head.

So, that night I went to bed at a reasonable time. This allowed me to get up at 4:55 the following morning and crush my routine. I didn’t fall out of bed. I go up with purpose. Had a coffee and started reading. Then did a workout. It was the victory I had wanted. I was able to redirect myself onto the path of success and not give up on the goal because I failed the first day starting it. I call this Goal Reorienting. Imagine one day that you are lost in the woods while going for a hike. You would (hopefully) not just give up finding a way out. What you might do is stop aimlessly walking and recompose yourself by taking a breathe and thinking about where you came from and where you want to go. You would look for landmarks that would help bring you back onto the path from where you came from and eventually get yourself out of the precarious position you are in. Goal Reorienting is like this, only instead of getting lost in the woods you fail to hit your goal. The recomposing yourself is similar but rather than looking for landmarks, you look for the successes that are getting you closer to your goal. Lets say you wanted to lose ten pounds but you only lost 5, well, that’s a pretty spectacular landmark that means you are getting closer to your destination. This helped me stay on the path and carve out my first success with my goal. It felt good, but it was only one day.

“Shit, where was I again?”

Now, maybe I was too cocky because that night I did not go to bed at a reasonable time. But I made a commitment to get up at 4:55AM, which I accomplished. This goes back to the concept of Goal Reorientation. Yes, I strayed away from my path but I was able to correct myself at the nearest landmark (my wake up time). This was a success. And trust me, that night I had no troubles sleeping. I was back at it, even on the weekend! I also plan on continuing to pursue this routine- will I achieve it tomorrow? Not sure yet but I am aiming for it. That is the key to goal consistency.

The point is, if you do not want to accomplish something, aim for perfection. If you do want to achieve something, aim for and identify your progress. Once you get there, keep pursuing it. Achieving goals is all about consistency and your willingness to work for it. Not skill. Not luck. Ask yourself how bad do you want it? If you give up the first sign of difficulty then that can tell you one of two things: you either don’t really want it or you need to deal with that inner critic in your head who is keeping you down. Only you can figure this out and I challenge you to!

So how are you doing with your goals? Feel free to leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

As always, thanks for reading!

RG

Photo one taken from: https://images.ctfassets.net/oartd9t7ehdh/20NNQvcRlikMOCCQu8kIuE/90c6ec959e27be9b2803c54ceb898729/620×346-Setting-Realistic-Goals-Will-Help-You-Achieve-Them.jpg

Photo two taken from: https://www.dumblittleman.com/4-reasons-you-fail-to-achieve-your/

Your Choice/Getting Reps In

February 18, 2020

I started writing these articles or excerpts- whatever you would like to call them, as a way of positively relaxing, reflecting and growing. You see the old method I previously employed, that of getting all pent up during the week and then getting smashed up with my friends, is extremely counter-intuitive to being a successful new parent. Hangovers and screaming children are a fatal cocktail. I also realized that I didn’t want to follow some of the similar missteps of others by self-medicating with alcohol as a method of stress management. The interesting thing is that alcohol increases stress levels rather than inhibits them. Therefore, I needed to find something different and fast. My relationship with my partner and my child depended on it.

Throughout my twenties, I thought it was meaningful to lose yourself in parties and the drink. To forget your values and act like an absolute idiot to attain laughs, attention and even popularity. But that was all incredibly misplaced. While I made lots of great friends throughout my travels, many of whom are still in my life, quite a few of them have subsided and gone elsewhere. The reality is that this was all very much a mask to hide my true self. I am a hurt person. A lot has happened in my life that has negatively impacted me. A lot of it was my own fault. Some of it wasn’t. Regardless, I had an option: to change my values and my lifestyle or slowly destroy my life because of my unhealthy habits. The choice was mine and no one else.

 So, like any human with half a brain and a kernel of dignity, I chose to get better. To spend more time with my family and do more productive things. I chose to change. I had the humility to realize that the way I was living was not positive but rather destructive. I almost lost a great relationship and everything that came with it because I was too stubborn to get some help. Life is not easy. For anyone. And if it is easy, then who can you really relate to (it’s hard not relating to anyone)? We all experience pain and we will all at some point or another, if not already, experience immense loss. Loss and pain is part of existence. Death is what makes living real. Time is the only universal currency in all living things. Money doesn’t mean shit when you die, only what you did with the time that you were given does. So start using your time wisely. Which is precisely what I started doing: using my time wisely.

I started going to bed and getting up earlier. I spent more time with my family. I developed a bond with my baby daughter. I played less video games. I put my phone on silent and didn’t respond to people right away. I avoided group chats like the plague. I stopped caring what most people think (after all, if they didn’t respect my new way of life- why bother having them around?) I limited time spent around negative people and energy vampires. I drank less booze and ate much healthier. I mediated. I took cold showers. I journaled (kind of doing that right now). I drank more water. I went to the gym almost every morning. You get the idea: I changed my habits. I changed my life style.

Change is a choice. A choice you make daily. It is not about being perfect. It is about doing your best. Every day. That is how you fall asleep quickly and soundly every night. Knowing you did your best. So that is what I decided to do: my best. I realized that when I was partying, drinking beers, eating garbage food and feeling terrible for the next two and a half days. I was not doing my best. It was evident. I need not ask anyone for a second opinion- the proof was in how I felt: like shit. Not only did I feel gross in terms of physical body- but I also felt like garbage inside my mind. My mental wellness was getting thrashed around like a headbanger at a Slayer concert and not in a good way. The irony is that I partook in these activities because I wasn’t feeling very good about myself but it was also through these activities that continued to make myself feel worse. The fact is that I simply was not doing a very good job of being a partner, a parent and a professional (my productivity at work was struggling too). I simply had no passion. No drive. I had a house. An education. A family. But something was missing.

A passion.

When I was eleven years old, I wrote a book. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t very good. The plot was the same consistency as a Michael Bay film and featured characters that didn’t really develop. I used my grade seven classmates because I really couldn’t come up with interesting characters and didn’t want to. I was more interested in telling an action packed story where me and my friends took on a demon infested island. I wrote this book in one day. I was so excited. I was having so much fun. I didn’t care about the quality of it. I just loved creating this juvenile adventure that was overflowing with gore yet lacking in philosophical exposition. I wrote it while laying in bed and when I finished, I could hardly sleep. I couldn’t wait to show it to my friends the next morning. When I got to school, I felt like I carried a treasure inside that Garfield notebook. Before I knew it, everyone was reading it. They loved it. It was such a great feeling for I had finally found something I was good at. I was terrible at sports, music or most anything that required a level of skill. But for the first time I was getting honest praise for something I accomplished.

For a long time, I forgot that feeling. Instead, I turned to a plethora of other hobbies. I reserved writing for when I would become ‘inspired’. But that never seemed to happen. I just kept putting it off. Occasionally, I would start a project but then get distracted by a friend, a girl, booze, or all of the above. I went through my undergrad and finished my masters. Believe me, the last thing I wanted to do during this time was write. But really, it probably should have been the first thing. You see, for me, writing is part of my self-care plan. When I actually do it, it really doesn’t require that much energy. Behavioral psychologists call this a flow state, when you do something that seems to escape the parameters of time and you get lost in the act of doing it. Finding something that puts you in this state can help in combating mental health disorders[1]. Writing helped do this for me, so why did I stop.

I probably stopped because I lacked consistency. I lacked having a plan. I lacked holding myself accountable. I lacked courage. I simply wasn’t getting any reps. I kept putting it off, thinking that tomorrow would bring the inspiration I needed. Well, you probably don’t need me to tell you that tomorrow never came. If you want to see change, you need to start right now. Not tomorrow. Not on New Years. Today. This very second. Now. So think of a goal. Maybe you want to get in better shape. Then stop reading this and do as many push-ups as you can do. Or do squats while you read it. Start right now. If you want to drink less booze, go buy a six pack of kombucha instead (it tastes like beer). Whatever it is that you want to change or get better at, you need to get repetitions in (I call them reps). The more daily reps you get in, the higher your chances of success. So make it something you can do relatively easily (ex. Mountaineering is not a good daily goal unless you live in Switzerland or a mountainous region; however, if you want to read more, then have books near you that you can pick up). Also, remember, you are not perfect. If you miss a day, shake it off, start again tomorrow. Do your best.

Remember, in the end, it is what we do with the time that we are given. Make the gift that is this time worth while and do what you want to do. Nobody else is going to do it for you. So go out there and get those reps!

(Semi)Pro-tip: If you want to see lasting change, make it a change that you can accomplish daily. For example: if you want to eat healthier, go to the store and buy some veggies! Then put them in your lunch and eat them. Feel good about eating them. Say: I just ate veggies. Go me! Or whatever mantra is going to make you feel good about your choice and insodoing is going to keep you making positive choices. It all comes down to you making a conscious choice. No one can make it for you. If you want change, you need to be that change.      

-RG


[1] Google it if you don’t believe me.