Condensing a year of growth into January - 2024

You can change quickly, in ways you never thought possible - the approach I used

Condensing a year of growth into January - 2024

January was the best month of my life. Only a small exaggeration.

At least I'm becoming the person I want to be.

I've had periods of self-improvement since I was a teenager, but they've never sustained. I didn't know how.

And those periods usually involve latching onto one or two improvement ideas or areas. Until I'd neglect other important areas of my life and burn out.

One area of improvement: social skills.

Social anxiety. Self-confidence.

Not feeling like I could cry or pass out as a juror in a courtroom.

I mention a courtroom above, as I was chosen for jury duty selection in January.

Second time in my life I had to go through jury selection.

This time, I didn't feel like crying or passing out.

After some initial heartbeating and initial strategies to get in the zone (give other potential jury strangers names and personal stories to feel more friendly, and give a wall of judges photos visualizations of being my neighbors playing ball with their children) –

I confidently looked the judge in the eye and responded feeling energized.

I felt confident. I felt extroverted. I felt excited.

I didn't get selected.

But I know that's because I had some biases rather than a panic attack.

This wouldn't have happened in December.

I've developed that new confidence in January.

Leadership at Docker has shared the perception of my new sense of confidence.

Allowing Growth To Happen

Realize that:

  1. Everyone has areas to grow they think they'll never be able to overcome.

  2. Most people could greatly improve their growth system.

  3. Catch 22: Until you've mastered #2, you won't overcome those areas in #1. But until you overcome #1, you won't appreciate #2 enough to go all in.

Growth only happens with a growth mindset, a la Carol Dweck.

Defensiveness and stubborn opinions only teach you to be defensive and stubborn.

On the other hand, vulnerability and confidence are what open you up to learn from others.

This requires developing a lack of fear of being yourself, being corny, and feelings of inauthenticity in acting like who you want to be.

You should have a curiosity for the truth in every situation.

Recognize that in every debate, both sides are right when using their own lens.

Learn from the other perspective.

Admit your wrong, or you will never know what right is.

Reframing your Beliefs

Find your hard truths.

Once you know where you've been wrong the most, you may find beliefs that have held you back in life.

Take those incorrect beliefs, and write down another viewpoint. Better yet, 10.

You've been the way you are not (purely) from genetics, nor (purely) from how you were raised.

It's not who you are. Or at least who you have to be.

Be who you want to be.

By reframing your beliefs, you are priming yourself from being right and responding well in future situations.

Engraining the Truth

Most people mistake reframing a belief as the end of the journey.

You are just getting started.

You can model your behaviors like an onion:

  • Perception

    • Habits

      • Beliefs

        • Emotions

          • Identity

You are in for a ride if your behavior is tied to your identity.

How old are you?

It takes more than 5 minutes to change what <your age> years has engrained in you.

But it's not hard.

It takes more than 5 minutes to change.

But it can be easy.

Growth at Each Layer

Learning a new (programming) language is hard.

Learning to change yourself is harder:

  • Perception

    • Habits

      • Beliefs

        • Emotions

          • Identity

Changing each of these isn't easy:

  • Perception = Conscious thinking of others point-of-view + amount of personal curiosity and empathy you've developed for others.

  • Habits = Repetition x Ease of Action x Emotional impact

  • Beliefs = Reframing x Level of Understanding x Emotional impact

  • Emotions = Repetition x Counteractive Positive Emotions x Reframing Positive Emotion Beliefs

  • Identity = All the things.

And the more layers you have to change, the trickier that equation is going to look.

Hacking your Growth

Your brain is like a computer program. In isolation, if it isn't changing itself, and no one or nothing is "programming" it, it is static.

Changing each of these layers requires constant inputs, such as:

  1. Journaling and self-reflection.

  2. Surround yourself with people that influence you positively in that area.

  3. Listening to audiobooks or other outside media targeted to help you in your growth.

  4. Talk regularly to a manager, a coach, or a therapist.

  5. Affirmations.

It takes more than 5 minutes to change yourself.

But an effective system can make it occur faster than you think.

Among many, I've found one that works fastest for me:

  1. Write down the truths, no matter how hard they are to accept.

  2. Reframe your beliefs on those hard truths to be positive and hopeful.

  3. Think of the most succinct phrase to express how to think about the reframed thought.

  4. Use a system to review those phrases often, ideally daily.

  5. As you review the phrases:

    1. Think of how the phrase applies to your current situations, even if they are new situations outside of the original context.

    2. Let your mind wander to different aspects of the situation, individuals, areas of your life. Reframe all your thoughts while you're at it.

    3. Visualize success.

    4. Optionally: recite your thoughts that arise from visualizing success, as if you were coaching someone or giving a motivational speech.

Essentially, like "Affirmations".

But it doesn't have to be "I am..."

And not generic statements that you can find in any app, book, or webpage.

They need to be exactly what you need to hear, at this point in your life.

They need to be emotional, inspirational, and exaggerate their message while still being something you believe in.

And regardless of your system, you need to do it regularly.

I use quite a few approaches:

  1. Todoist todo app - I schedule thoughts, emotional responses, and/or reframed phrases into my todo list. Your todo list shouldn't be all concrete actions. Follow up on the good thoughts you have, lessons learned, and ways to think about things in coming weeks..

  2. "I Am" app - an affirmations app on my phone and my smart watch. 5 minute session some mornings, when I have time, starts the day off inspired and energized. Reminder notifications throughout the day, which are much better than negative notifications from news and social media. I don't use the actual affirmations. They aren't tailored to me. I write my own sayings into the app. It could be reflection per the process above. It could be key takeaways or phrases from audiobooks. Or it could be something someone said to me, such as a compliment. Especially compliments. I love those.

  3. Index cards in front of my monitor at work, on a phone stand - I have some of my most impactful sayings ready for me to glance at before work or before meetings. Reading "Say what needs to be said", or "Feel the Joy!", or "How do you want others to feel?" before a meeting is going to have an impact. Especially if, again, you believe in it, feel some emotion/excitement behind it, and let it become part of your identity, no matter how corny it sounds.

My journey to the courtroom

I woke up on jury selection day with my normal routine, including:

  • Listening to Arete by Brian Johnson on an audiobook.

  • Getting in 3k steps while I was at it, among other habits that start my day off feeling good.

  • Asking myself questions about my day, a la the book High Performance Habits in generating mental energy, thinking through questions like "How do I want the other jurors to feel in the courtroom?"

Nothing unusual. At least for me, post-December 2023.

Driving to the courtroom, listening to Arete further, Brian asks:

"What do you want?"

Sayings pop into my head I have written on index cards:

"Bring the Joy!"

"Say what needs to be said".

"Everyone is doing their best, within their current capabilities".

I think of being confident in the courtroom.

I think of everyone else that doesn't want to be there.

I do.

I want to bring them joy. Truly. No one normal loves going to jury duty.

I don't want to be normal.

I want to tell them what they need to hear.

I want to raise others to the best of their abilities.

I want to make it a joyous experience for everyone in that courtroom.

"What do you want?"

I want us to walk away feeling like a team, not like strangers.

I want us to find out the truth where other juries would have been deceived.

I want to come home to my wife in the afternoon and tell my wife how I kicked ***.

We all owe it to the plaintiff and defendant to find out the truth.

You need to put your biases aside, forget for now how you are falling behind on work, and be part of the best damn jury a plaintiff could ask for. Or a defendant.

This was me, speaking passionately in the car.

Giving a motivational speech to people I haven't met yet, while driving down the highway.

I looked crazy. I don't care.

Get over your feelings of corniness or awkwardness that hold your growth back.

All that mattered was that I brought joy that day.

I made a friend.

I said what needed to be said. With confidence.

I realized I could be an extrovert. If I want to be.

I got what I wanted.

On the way home, grabbing a bite, I looked a waitress in the eye. Confidently.

For the first time in my life, I felt like an extrovert. Only a small exaggeration.

Recommended Reading

The most impactful books I've (re)read since December 2023 break include:

  1. Atomic Habits by James Clear - making small habits that build off each other, finding keystone habits that change your life (habits to me includes habitual thought, not just actions – which made me realize much about this article).

  2. Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg - engraining those habits by considering the emotional impact and the difficulty versus the perceived impact.

  3. High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard - 6 keystone habits of high performers, which revealed some of the biggest hard truths I needed to hear, and a few great techniques (such as a quick "relax" meditation and visualization before meetings, then thinking "what tone do I want to bring? how do I want others to feel? what is going on in their lives?").

  4. Arete by Brian Johnson - A shotgun approach. Teachings from many sources, both ancient philosophy and contrasting with modern psychology. I find myself dismissing the micro lessons at first listen, but later quoting the mental models more than any other book within everyday conversation.

  5. The Expectation Effect - The power of belief.

  6. The Slight Edge - Like Atomic's Habits, the idea of 1% improvements each day.

Not all of the concepts above come from books.

And not all of the approaches above cover what I've been doing for myself.

You have to find your own way.

It does take a lot of focus and attention to truly change.

But be open to learning from others, whether from me or not.

Realize you haven't been able to change certain aspects of yourself with your methods in <your age> years.

Try something new.