Ultimate Strength Is Measured In Adaptability

Ultimate Strength transcends any one label, it is adaptable.

How do you define strength?

I like the definition I wrote for thebeardreport.’s homepage: The physical and mental ability to resist opposition, withstand attack, and push forward; because it begins to describe different sides of strength. By this definition, strength is not only physical but also mental. It does not only work to oppose incoming forces but also to push forward toward what’s next.

There are three pillars of strength (physical, mental, and emotional). When I think of strength, three visualizations come into focus:

  1. I see myself at the bottom of a heavy squat; face red, veins popping, and straining every muscle in my body to overcome the resistance from the weight. This is my representation of physical strength.
  2. I see myself making tough decisions that help me to stay on my path and achieve rather than falling victim to less beneficial influences. This is my representation of mental strength.
  3. I see myself as a calm person in a room full of panic; evaluating the facts, assessing, and deciding the best path forward. This is my representation of emotional strength. 

Beyond these three pillars strength breaks down further. Strength can be defined as rigid or flexible, and seen through the lens of specificity or generality. 

You may think of rigid strength as something that is over-designed. Rigid strength accomplishes its tasks through brute force or mass alone. There is little nuance to rigid strength; it does not flex. What you see is what you get. Think about a time where your friends wanted to pull you out to a bar and there was no amount of convincing they could have done that resulted in you going. This is rigidity. No flex to be found here.

Flexible strength will ebb and flow with the dynamics of its environment. If rigid strength is strength by excess, you can think of flexible strength as being optimized for its environment. Think about trying to get work done while staying at your in-laws house. You will need to be flexible in when you work, where you work, and what type of distractions there may be. Rigidity will not work here, you must be flexible to accommodate the situation.

Specific strength can be seen similar to a machine: designed and optimized to perform a defined set of tasks. Specific strength excels within a defined set of parameters and is weaker in all ways outside of those parameters. Think of specific strength as involving a skill. Developing a skill introduces specificity to what is otherwise general strength.

General strength may be thought of along the lines of the old adage “jack of all trades, master of none” in which this strength can be applied to a number of circumstances as it is less specific. Think about moving heavy objects around your yard. You may need to push, lift, or pull depending on what needs to be moved. To complete these tasks you need to have general strength that can be applied in a number of ways.

Now think of yourself.

You are human. You grow. You change. You learn. 

You adapt to many circumstances throughout life. 

When considering all of the roles you fill as a person, it stands to reason that you need to be adaptable. You need to be able to apply the strength you gain in one area to other areas of your life if there is any hope of efficiency. Ultimate strength; therefore, is adaptable; it transcends specific definition. Strength is an idea, a feeling, a characteristic, and an attribute.

How do you gain adaptability?

Adaptability is gained with depth; and within depth there are three categories:

  1. Depth in understanding
  2. Depth in building
  3. Depth in application

This is where this article gets fun for me. 

For purposes of discussion, let’s start with one of my favorite lifts – the squat. As a competitive powerlifter, the squat is a big deal. It is the first lift contested at a powerlifting meet and is all about commitment. Squatting a big weight requires you to be ok with putting your entire body under weights heavy enough to crush you. It requires focus, self-belief, and, maybe, a screw or two loose. But I digress.

Here’s the thing, though. I am not just a powerlifter – I do many other things. I have other hobbies that I like to do outside of the weightroom. I do not exist only to squat. I would like for the strength I build to be able to benefit me in other ways. In order to do this, I need adaptability. I develop that adaptability through understanding depth. Check it out:

1. Depth in understanding

The first part of building and developing squat strength is to understand what it takes to build a strong squat. The squat is a total body movement; you need a strong back, strong legs, and strong abs to support the weight. You need to understand the biomechanics of a squat to move your body efficiently. You need to understand how your body reacts to training loads. A big squat doesn’t happen overnight – you need to understand how to train the movement over a long period of time. 

2. Depth in building

Once you have the understanding, you need to execute. You need to not only accumulate squat repetitions to build the squat but you also need to perform different accessory movements to build up different areas of your body. You may need to drill different movements to gain needed flexibility or teach your body how to use different muscles. Having a depth of training techniques at your disposal will help you build more strength faster by being able to identify and strengthen specific weaknesses.

If I stopped here, I would have everything I needed to build a strong squat. This would be a form of specific strength. Knowing nothing outside what I described above would make me very good at performing a squat, and with enough time under the bar, I would be a very proficient squatter. As I said earlier, though, I am a person that does more than squat. I want my training to perform in other ways that better my life as a whole. 

With that, we move on to the third aspect of depth. 

3. Depth in application

Understanding and executing different applications for strength built in the first two steps is what allows me to be adaptable. 

In a physical sense, it is easy to see how a strong squat helps me in day-to-day life. Strong legs and a strong back help me when I go to move heavy boxes, I can pick up someone who has fallen over, I can support my motorcycle when I come to a red light, and being physically fit helps me to look good out by the pool (we all have a little vanity within us).

These different physical applications speak to the adaptability of strength built through training my squat. No longer am I turning into a machine that squats weight and squats weight only. All of a sudden, I understand how my training allows me to improve all these other parts of my life. I build a more capable human ready to tackle a range of roles and responsibilities that are required to live the life I want to live by being able to transfer skills and abilities from the weightroom to these other areas of my life.

As far as depth goes, this is still shallow. 

As someone who has spent an unknown number of hours under the barbell, I have gained far more from the iron than a strong body. While I was working at building my lifts and appreciating all of the physical things that have been improved through strengthening my body, I have been building my mind as well. 

It takes discipline to show up every day and put in the reps. It takes an ever-increasing drive to maintain high intensity through long workouts and training blocks. It takes self-reliance and confidence to approach weights that scare you while having the confidence that you will be the victor in this battle of man vs. steel. 

You don’t lose this mental edge when you leave the gym if you understand what you are building and how to apply it. When you understand that you are developing discipline each time you walk into the weight room, you can then take that discipline and apply it out in your world to your work life and your home life. 

The gains don’t stop at discipline and mental fortitude. When you push your body to do anything new you will sometimes fail. If you are pushing yourself hard in the gym, you will miss lifts. There will be training blocks that don’t result in personal best lifts. You can choose to be defeated by these situations and let your emotions best you when you aren’t performing; or, of course, you can let the iron teach you that this is all part of the process and that you will not always win in the short term. You can choose to remain objective and level headed and, ultimately, persevere. Emotional strength is flexed along with everything else in these situations and again, can be taken to all other areas of your life when you understand the depth of what you are doing.

This is Depth

Something as straightforward as squatting can develop skills that tie into the most core characteristics of an initiated individual. From that core, these skills are expressed in many ways across many disciplines of life. Again, this is only available to those that can recognize and build this type of depth. 

And this discussion is centered around only one activity – working out. When you understand depth in its three disciplines, this can be taken to any activity you do.


When you see the larger picture and understand depth in this way, you are able to take the strength you build in one discipline and apply it across all other areas of your life. This is adaptability and it is what makes a person ultimately strong. 

A big squat is strong, having a high IQ is strong, being able to navigate big emotions is strong, but none of this means anything if these skills don’t adapt.

If one of the pillars of strength should fall…

If one of the pillars of strength (physical, mental, emotional) should fall you begin to see how this affects depth, and therefore, adaptability. You become a commodity when you cannot adapt. You become more like a machine than a human; able to perform well in some areas, but not adaptable to all areas. Humans have many roles and enter into many different scenarios throughout their days, weeks, years, and lives. You need strength to succeed. To have ultimate strength, you need to adapt. 

When you understand depth both as a concept and as part of what you do, you no longer think in silos. Your knowledge and abilities begin to flow together and support each other. They begin to build Integrity. The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. 

This is strength. This is adaptability. This is why you need depth.

Yours in strength, 

-Chris

There is a lot going on at thebeardreport. these days.

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You Need Competition

“If you’re a true warrior, competition doesn’t scare you. It makes you better.” – Andrew Whitworth

Competition is a challenge to overcome or can serve as the friction needed to drive growth. Whether you compete against yourself, against the clock, or against an opponent, you need competition to keep yourself and your skills tight.

Think about the last time you competed. I mean really competed – a time when you had skin in the game and the stakes were high enough that the results mattered. I bet the version of yourself leading up to that day was focused. I bet you practiced your craft and honed your skills. This is what competition brings out of competitors.

There is a lot learned from competition. Competitors learn to develop discipline through showing up and training. They learn how to plan and prepare so that they continue to grow and improve over time. They learn how to win and how to lose. 

In winning they learn to practice modesty and in losing they learn to practice respect. A good winner knows that on any given day the results could have been reversed and a good loser knows that while he may have been bested today, there’s always next time. So starts the next training block to come back stronger. 

When I was younger, there was competition all around me. There was obvious competition in sports but I also played games at recess, in PE class, and around the neighborhood. Less obvious was the social competition everyone engages in – wanting to be popular, have friends, be cool. Most everyone can relate, I’m sure.

The stakes felt high at the time. I know I was invested in doing my best to win every sports match I played in, recess and PE would sometimes result in arguments over the rules because that last questionable play resulted in the winning run for the other team. I cared about whether the other kids thought I was cool or not. Competition was fierce and I did not want to lose.

So, then, where is the friction to keep growing? What is driving these people to keep training, learning, studying, and working on their skills to become better? 

When I zoom out and look at society on a macro scale, it appears that many people lose their sense of competition as they grow. At some point, a person must lead themselves to remain competitive; to seek out opportunities to compete and push themselves to train. I don’t see this in the world. Instead, I see people trade in the hard work and training for comfort as they settle into relationships, careers, and whatever else the general population chooses to do with their time.

A lot is lost when there is no competition.

When there is little to no threat of losing, there is little to no competitive edge driving action to get better. That deep well of drive that used to propel the competitor within dries up. 

Competition brings virility. Training hard, putting in work, and building something to bring to the competition is exhilarating, tangible, and real.The energy of competition cannot be substituted by anything else.

Withdrawing from competition softens the edge a competitor once had as the flame of competition slowly decays. The primal feelings associated with having a goal, working, visualizing the win, and making that a reality were felt deep and are not easily replaced.

What qualifies as competition?

As I got older, I was fortunate to have a competitive drive still in me. I began lifting weights in college. What started out as a competition to gain strength and muscle graduated to competitive powerlifting. 

I competed in a handful of powerlifting meets over the years and trained with a small group of driven guys that would push me to do better, lift more, and train harder. Without that competitive spirit keeping us all showing up and working hard for that feeling of fulfilment and purpose, I would not have lifted the weights I have lifted.

You don’t need to compete in weightlifting or competitive sports to compete, though. Competition is everywhere. Here is what qualifies as competition:

1. The stakes need to be high enough to matter. 

The local beer league slow pitch softball team does not count – the stakes there are not high enough to make it matter. Consider this leisure; a time to mess around with your buddies. 

You need more skin in the game. Real competition requires you to put your pride on the line and having to take a hit to your ego if you lose. You need to be invested in the results. If you’re not invested in training, learning, and winning, you’re not competing; you’re participating in recreation. 

2. Competition takes place on a stage. 

No, not a physical stage necessarily, but you need to face your opponent in a competitive arena. This stage can be in the business world, on a field, or in a gym, any location where some number of competitors enter, and fewer exit victorious.

3. There needs to be a winner.

If there is no winner, there is no competition.

Now, this leads me to an aside – if there must be a winner, there must also be a loser, right? Most of the time, yes, for one side to win another side must lose. Undermining the benefit of healthy competition by removing the threat of losing does nothing but cheapen competition and all of the great things that come from it. 

With that said, there are situations in which there can be multiple winners. This is often seen in business. Business is a unique situation because the biggest competition is not always between competing businesses but rather between a business and the challenges that they face. In these instances, successful businesses win and the challenges themselves are the losers.

Still Not Buying It? Consider This

Consider how popular this phrase has become in society’s vocabulary: 

“I need someone to hold me accountable.”

Accountability is not the answer to the deeper issue at play. People look for external accountability when they lack the discipline needed to generate drive. There are few things that provide more drive than the spirit of competition, the threat of losing, or the feeling of winning. 

Choose to step onto the competitive field, put something you love on the line, and see how little accountability you need from someone else to work for that win.

But… But Losing Doesn’t Feel Good For The Losers

This perspective is more damaging than losing in competition ever was. The split between a winner and a loser is healthy; it gives the winner the satisfaction deserved from putting in the hard work and gives the loser the satisfaction of putting forth his own best efforts after working hard himself. Losing is not damaging and it should not be viewed this way. Losing is an opportunity to reflect, refine, and work harder to come out of the next bout victorious. 

There will be those that have already closed this article because they feel competition is evil and there are those others that will have made it this far while still disagreeing with what I am saying. These people may be of the camp that believe “competition brings out the worst of people”. 

To these people I say “competition brings out the worst of poor competitors”. Competition is honorable and honorable competitors respect the integrity of competition and their fellow competitors. Competition exists to be won based on the merits of the competitors’ performance. Playing dirty is a characteristic of a poor competitor. Competition is not harmful to people, it is a select group of people that are harmful to competition.

Competition should be embraced. Everything that we have and enjoy today is a result of competition in one way or another.

If you want one way to improve your current mood, work ethic, and overall situation…

… go compete.

Yours in strength,

-Chris

There is a lot going on at thebeardreport. these days.

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Planning For The New Year

Let’s get real about our plans for the New Year.

First, let me take a moment to say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and / or Happy Holidays. I hope you and your family are well and safe.  

The New Year will always feel like a fresh start. It provides a natural end to one chapter and flips the page to the next. This is the time of year where many take stock of their past year, what went well, what could have gone better, and what they are going to do moving forward. 

Hopefully you have some plans for what you want to accomplish this upcoming year and I want to dedicate this article to helping you fortify your plan and get where you want to go.

Let’s first make sure our plans and intentions have some sticking power. Once you decide what your goals are, what is your plan to achieve them? What are you going to do differently than what you have already been doing?

There is a popular quote “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always got”. If you are doing the same things, with the same people, in the same places, your chances of changing are limited. You may come out of the gates strong, but the comforts of what you have always done will start to work against you. If those around you are not on board with supporting your goals, you will feel pressure to be the same old you. I don’t care how strong you are, that constant weight will work to slowly pull you back to where you have always been.

So whatever your plan is for stepping out of your comfort zone and making things happen – start executing now. Start up some momentum to carry into the new year. If you’re reading this when it goes live, you have under a week to get something going before the new year hits. Get after it.

From here, let’s go back over some of the past articles and break down some other things we should look at over the next few days to get ourselves set for serious gains in 2022.

The links throughout the sections below are all links to other articles posted here that focus in on different points.

Clarify your Vision

Is your vision vivid? Can you see where you are going from where you are currently standing? If you can’t see all the way to the end, can you see at least the next milestone from where you are? 

Ensure you have a clear path and can see the boundaries that you will operate between. Strengthen your strategies along that path and train your tactics to be strong and focused. 

Let’s check the plan

Goals without plans are dreams. You need a good, reasonable plan for how you’re going to approach your goals. You need to practice discipline in making the plan and in executing the plan. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are going to take on more tasks without shedding others. You need to know where you are going to find the time and resources to pursue your new goals. Make sure you are setting yourself up for success.

Strengthen your Foundation and Philosophy

Take a look at your Philosophy, Principles, and Values and recommit to them. Are your goals tied to your Values? How tightly tied are they? Can you make this bond stronger?

Take a look out to June, are you still as committed to your goals as you are now? Do you have enough weight to your goals to develop the discipline necessary to push on? Make sure your goals are not just things that are nice to hear yourself say. Make sure they are tied to something deep within you; something that has the driving power to push your feet along when you don’t want to continue down the path. 

Look Within for Motivation and Accountability

You have everything within you to make all of your goals happen. You need to believe that and build the discipline to match. Refrain from looking to external sources of motivation and accountability and instead look at yourself to push through your challenges. Hire coaches for their expertise and their ability to streamline hitting your goals, not for the accountability they provide.

If you are still not on-board with this, go back to looking at how tightly your goals are tied to your values. When you have tight ties there, accountability is not going to provide you anything beyond what you are already going to be willing to do to get it done.


With all of that, there is nothing left to do but execute. Hit the ground running harder than you have ever hit it before. Make this upcoming year your year. Build yourself into the juggernaut that you want to be. Whatever goals you have will be crushed in record time – you’ve got the tools to make it happen.


As for me, I will be focusing on how I am living the Initiated Tenets and building myself, too.

I will be strengthening my body and my mind with more study and training. I have goals to sign up for another powerlifting meet and perform well there.

I will be honing in on my schedule and my systems to accomplish my personal and professional goals. I will be growing the Initiated Lifestyle Coaching system and all of the media outlets I maintain. I want to reach everyone and anyone I can to give them the material and information they need to crush life. 

I will be fortifying my own ties to my Philosophy. I am not immune to the distractions and noise of the world myself and must also refocus myself to my goals, Values, and Philosophy.

I will be strengthening my Integrity and dumping everything that is not supporting my alignment with my Values. I will not be using emotion or sentiment to make these decisions; this will be done with discipline and leadership tactics to make sure that I am making the best choices for me and mine.

I will be studying and strengthening my leadership through remaining consistent and strong in my actions. 

I will be continuing to push myself and my business to learn and grow now that I have more experience under my belt. I intend to be in a very different spot with thebeardreport. by the time we do this again in a year.

I am amped for what is going to be coming for all of us and I hope you are also ready to grab 2022 by the horns and make it everything you want it to be.

I appreciate you all and hope that we all see each other at the top.

Yours in strength,

-Chris

There is a lot going on at thebeardreport. these days.

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The Proactive Leader

The leadership strategy to look ahead, get ahead, and stay ahead.

Here is the formula to be an effective, proactive leader – you need to look ahead, get ahead, and stay ahead. If you are able to put a strategy together that allows you to do all three of these things, you and your team will be in the best position for success.

I’m not going to do a long introduction for this one – let’s get right into it.

Look ahead.

This is the discovery phase of a new leadership campaign. As a leader, you are starting at the start and bringing your team through the journey through the finish line. In order to lead, you must know which direction you are headed and for that, you need a vision and a plan.

Start at a high level by identifying the start and end points and lay out some milestones along the way. This begins to segment the journey into more digestible steps that you can continue to break down further. The level of detail is dependent on the intricacy of the mission, the number of people on the team, and the experience level of the team. This plan follows your vision for the end goal and will equip you with your own North Star, keeping everything aligned in the right direction.

This is also the stage where you start to identify threats to your success. There are likely going to be some obvious challenges that you will need to account for and now is the time to begin building strategies and tactics for those instances. These are your first steps at steering your team away from problems to maximize their efficiency and minimize their frustration.

Infrastructure is another consideration in this phase – what personnel, training, material, workspace are needed to achieve this goal? How are you going to get it? Cost? Time? Consider all of the things that are potential road-blocks and get yourself and your team setup early so they can hit the ground running. 

Get Ahead

The next course of action as a leader is to get ahead of your team. The prep work going into the beginning of a new project or pursuit sets the tone for the rest of the mission. The leader needs to put in the work up front to get ahead, remove hurdles for the team, and give everyone the best chance of success, including themselves. 

You will be setting up responsibilities for the people on your team and building out the systems that your team will be using. Set this up early so that you can free yourself to do those other things that get you out a few strategic steps in front of the team. You can’t lead from the middle of the pack, strategically speaking – you need to be out of the weeds and keep your vision wide.

Stay Ahead

This is where the leader lives strategically – out ahead of the rest of the team. The leaders are the first thing that external conflict hits and they are the filter for what does and does not make its way to the team.

Leaders need to be aware that they are most effective when they are ahead of the team and can see oncoming problems as they materialize. When the leader gets buried in the weeds right next to his team, he is unable to effectively steer the ship away from the rocks. If he performs this part of his job well, his team should be none-the-wiser about all of the minor course corrections the leader implemented to avoid crashing on the rocks.

This step is also where a lack of discipline is going to show itself most to the leader. When a leader gets out ahead of the team and their deadlines, he needs to work to maintain this strategic advantage. This means that his deadlines are not going to be the same as the team’s deadlines. His actions are not going to be tied to any hard project deadlines that the team might be working to. 

With this, the leader needs to be able to set deadlines for himself and be disciplined to meet them, else, he will fall behind and lose that advantage that he had worked to give himself. Again, you cannot lead when you are at the same strategic level as everyone else – you must work to maintain a lead. 

As you are out in front of the team, you are scanning the horizon for any issues that are starting to form. This can be checking in with team leads, asking questions, or monitoring the industry. It is on you to keep your vision up and out just as it is your team’s responsibility to support the project schedule by contributing their parts. Don’t allow the lines to be blurred. A leader can and should help their team, but the divide between work responsibilities must be maintained in the leader’s head to ensure they have the ability to lead.

Results

When a leader looks ahead, gets ahead, and stays ahead, the effects are felt throughout the team. Like mentioned earlier, the leader should be initiating small course corrections and/or interjecting occasionally to address the problems that they are identifying. 

When a leader fails to look ahead and make corrections, the team feels the jolt of meeting a challenge head-on. The abrupt change of direction disrupts the team and damages productivity and workflow. More foresight leads to less re-work, less frustration, and better product. 

The nuances of leadership are challenging, but this structure will set a leader to be effective and ready to lead their team.

Yours in strength,

-Chris

There is a lot going on at thebeardreport. these days.

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Act, Don’t React

A strategy to make better decisions under pressure.

Like a sniper that is pushed as he’s squeezing the trigger, what was a focused shot is now shanked, missing the mark. This is what a poor reaction can do for you. 

Let’s define reactions as actions that you take when you are already off balance. A problem has come to find you and you need to respond to it; so you react in an attempt to resolve the situation at hand. Reactions carry with them a hint of emotional response and lack the intent and focus that actions do. Reactions involve many dynamic influences. 

The value in making this distinction between actions and reactions is important to discuss the strategy we are going to look at here. 

When I talk about acting rather than reacting I am talking about removing impulse from our decisions and making intentional decisions when faced with a problem we weren’t expecting. These are the tactical situations in which we must take a new course of action based on new information or a conflict that has shown itself. 

We talk a lot about having a good plan, thinking through actions, Integrity, and other topics intended to make sure we are moving forward with the best and most complete plans possible, but we will never account for everything. It is impossible to plan ahead for what is hiding around each corner. Even the best laid plans need to consider that things are going to come up down the road that will need to be addressed. These situations are the reactions we are talking about here.

Why Do We React

Reactions are prompted by a number of things like surprise, pride, fear, ego, reputation, danger, etc. When we feel like there are eyes on us to make a decision, the pressure builds quickly. Maybe we don’t feel we have the time to take another course of action – we can be distracted with other things, have too much on our plate and fail to see where this new problem fits – and that is why we choose to react or push the problem off. There are a host of reasons we react but common amongst them is a feeling of being rushed or having to maintain some sort of image either to oneself or to others. 

Without these considerations, there would be little reason to react, unless of course there was a threat of imminent danger, but that’s a different conversation.

Limitations Of Our Reactions

Before we get to the strategies to overcome reactions, we must first understand the limitations we put on ourselves when we react, rather than act. 

First, we need to understand that by the time we are considering a reaction, we are already too close to the problem to see the larger picture. By the time we are forced to react the problem has come all the way up the sidewalk and is knocking on our front door. We can’t see around the problem nor our different options to address it. We are pressured to resolve this problem where it stands.

Had we seen this problem coming from further away, we could have changed course or put something in place to handle this issue before it got so close that we are now having to react; but in this case, we did not have the opportunity. We are found unprepared and now we are off balance because we are surprised and startled that this problem has come to find us.

Strategy To React Less And Act More

The strategy revolves around creating time and space to think, analyze, and act, rather than try to take actions when off-balance, as is the case when we react. 

When we are faced with that problem that has shown up on our doorstep, we need to make our first action to step back and create space – take a look around, understand what the real situation is, choose the best course of action, and move forward.

There are a few things to consider here:

Understanding what the real situation is:

The urgency that comes along with some of these problems we face is often fabricated either within ourselves or by the other people involved in the situation. We create urgency by feeling the pressure we discussed above; whether it is our pride and ego, or a fear of being wrong or bested, there are tricks our minds play on us that will make us feel more rushed than we actually need to be. If we feel that we don’t have enough time or resources to address an issue, we can also feel an urgency to slap a quick band-aid on the situation and hope that it goes away.

When other people are involved, their inability to look at the whole situation becomes urgency to them and then they, in turn, bring their sense of urgency to you. As a leader, you need to first understand the urgency of the situation for yourself but also be able to help this other person see what the real level of urgency is. You need to help them think through the situation and help them to see why the urgency they are associating with this issue is not how you’re seeing it. This must be done tactfully so that you are not seen as dismissive but instead as a leader who will help them resolve their issue.

By taking a step back from the problem and picking our heads up, we will very often see that the situation is not nearly as urgent as we thought it was. We can begin to recognize the reasons that we were feeling this urgency and begin addressing those feelings before we attack the problem at hand.

Choosing the best course of action:

Once we have created some space for us to work in and understand what factors are at play both within ourselves and within the situation, we need to choose our next move. 

We are already leaps ahead of where we would be if we had allowed ourselves to act while we were off-balance. Now that we have created space and re-centered ourselves, we have regained our balance and are ready to move forward with Strength and Integrity.

The correct path forward is the path that best serves our purpose. In choosing our next action we need to consider not only the issue we are addressing now, but any other issues we are either going to create or resolve by taking one path or another. We want to make sure we are thinking through problems as they arise and choosing the course of action that will prevent the next fire drill from coming up as best we can. 

This is the less obvious efficiency in acting rather than reacting. It’s a harder sell because in order to act, you need to put in the additional time up front to think through different solutions. You need to think out a few moves like a chess match; you want to see how probable the next steps are to play out a certain way and consider these next actions as you choose your course.

Reacting, on the other hand, is quick and “resolves” the situation you face immediately. This feels good and productive at the moment, but it likely sets up future fire drills that you will need to address. That thing you didn’t consider earlier is going to bite you in the ass down the road. 

From observation, it is seen that when a person reacts to the first issue, it is likely that they will react to the next one that comes up, and the one after that. They start a string of reactions and are losing vision with where they are wanting to go. By the time they finally realize they have dug themselves into a trench with their reactions, they pick their head up somewhat unsure of where they will find themselves. Reacting to problems leaves you flying blind – you are like a pinball bouncing around from issue to issue.

This speaks to the importance of strategies and plans and taking action toward those ends. The plan keeps actions focused, sure, but what we are talking about here is keeping our actions consistent rather than reacting and going off-script.

Wrap-Up

Taking action requires attention and intention. It requires us to be in control of ourselves in order to be able to recognize when our responses are reactions rather than actions. We need to hold ourselves back from reacting and taking the time to create the space we need to operate and make decisions about how we are going to act, not react. 

Know that for every reaction you stop, you are increasing opportunities to lead yourself and others down the path you intend rather than blurring everyone’s vision of what the path is.

Act. Don’t React.

Yours in strength,

-Chris

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Automate Winning and Choosing to Fail

Strategies, tactics, and systems can set you up to win without having to make a decision.

There is no secret to winning. If you choose a direction and put in the work, you will see success. It doesn’t matter what that thing is; these statements are a universal truth. Success takes work – you have to put in the hours, build the systems; you’ve heard this all before. Instead of talking about the ways that systems will benefit you, let’s talk about how to automate your success using systems. 

Tools and systems will allow you to set up automated winning. This flips a lot of ideas on their head. What I’m saying is that there is a way to automate winning in such a way that you will need to choose to lose, rather than choose to win.

Making better choices is not bad advice, but what if we instead set ourselves up so that all we have to do is show up to win without having to make decisions. We can raise our baseline to the level that we want to operate at rather than having to decide to climb the hill to success. 

Think about the power in that idea. You don’t need to decide to work out, work on that side project, eat right – all of those things that you are trying to do to level up. You can get yourself to a place where all of that is a given and you have to choose to do those things that are hurting you. It is a powerful shift in perspective. Automating winning makes the choices you face far easier. Deciding not to do harmful things is easier than having to choose to do beneficial things.

Each decision point you leave yourself is an opportunity for failure – it is a weak point. Every decision is prone to influences like stress level, energy levels, surroundings, and any number of other factors. The idea here is to remove as many of those decisions as you can and leave the decisions that you do have to make as easy and obvious as possible. 

Humans are pulled to the path of least resistance; it’s attractive and comfortable. We have to choose to do hard things. So, make winning the path of least resistance and make losing difficult. Let “do hard things” be about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in training or new experiences rather than trying to stay on track with your goals. 

Alright, that’s likely enough build-up. Let’s get into the meat of this article – the strategies and tactics.

Routines

The first stop is creating routines for ourselves. Most common among routines are morning and nighttime routines, sure, but you can make anything repetitive a routine. Think about a lunchtime routine, for instance, or a “start of workday” routine. 

A routine is anything that has a set timeframe and a set of tasks. The advantages of having routines is that it removes decisions. 

Think about it – if you’re morning routine takes an hour and includes:

  • Wake up
  • Shower
  • Get dressed
  • Breakfast
  • Journal

…those are the things you do for the first hour of the day. There is no thinking involved – as long as you shuffle your feet from the bedroom to the bathroom to the kitchen, you’re starting your day off on a good foot and setting yourself up for success. 

Then, maybe you have an hour-long nighttime routine and a one-hour lunchtime routine. 

With only those three routines, you have automated three hours of your day. Assuming you include important and productive activities within your routine, that’s three hours of automatic wins. This is basic, but explains the concept.

You can create more routines for whatever you do daily – how and when you check your email and social media alerts, how you do work activities, how you work out, the possibilities are endless and each routine has the same effect of automating a chunk of your day with wins.

Project this out to starting that new side hustle or business, getting that promotion…

Calendar / Schedule

Using a calendar or a planner is a powerful tool to organize your routines. If you look at routines at the micro scale,, your calendar will organize your routines into sequences that make sense and move you through your day on a more macro scale. I am not breaking new  ground here, just setting it up.

I like using Google Calendars, but any electronic calendar works because they all generally allow you to do a few things:

  • Color code activities
  • Maintain different calendars
  • Schedule recurring activities

I am not going to belabor calendars, but instead give you some ideas to begin to look at macro scale systems.

Auditing

It is difficult to audit from memory. Auditing your calendar will quickly show you where you have inefficiencies, where you are over or under-estimating the time it takes to do different things, and it keeps you honest – you can’t argue with what is written down.

Build a Day With Intention

When you lay a day out ahead of time, you can build it in a meaningful way. I use this idea for content creation for this blog, the Initiated Lifestyle Podcast, and social media content. An example I use for content creation stacks out similar to this. 

  1. Outline and idea for content
  2. Write blog post (further think through and organize my thoughts)
  3. Outline then record the corresponding podcast episode
  4. Write corresponding newsletter
  5. Write social media content around the same idea.

You can see how I build a day from a rough content idea, into a blog post to do most of the heavy lifting in organizing and fleshing out how I present concepts, into a podcast, and then moving down into shorter-form but more specific content to highlight some of the finer points of the content. I am using the tasks that came earlier in the day to expedite the activities I am performing later in the day. This gives me a week of content across 4-5 platforms in a day, which is pretty good.

Timing and Flow

Laying out a day will bound the time frames in which you work on different tasks and shows you how you’re going to flow from one activity to the next. You will take the guesswork out of “what am I supposed to work on next” and “how long is this going to take”.

You answer both of those questions when you plan out your day. You will increase focus and decrease distractions when you give yourself a limit on how long something is going to take. This also requires you to put some thought into how you are going to organize your day and also forces you to think about how you are stacking your activities in a meaningful way.

I also suggest keeping the same recurring activities at the same times of day if possible. If you go to the gym at the same times on the same days, that helps you in a lot of ways. For example, you can eat at the right times to support the workout and you are taking more decisions away from yourself.

Combine this with auditing your schedule to find out how long activities actually take you to do so you are not short-changing yourself or giving yourself too much wiggle room to get distracted. This optimization takes a few iterations to get right, so go in with the mindset that this will be a work in progress and let it get better over the course of a few weeks.

Note Taking and Journaling

The biggest productivity killers are those little fires that pop up and distract you. These are the insignificant tasks that are quick to address, so you decide to address them to get them off your mind. The problem is that these tasks break focus on what you’re currently doing and you then need to get back into the frame of thought to continue working. As a one off, it may not be a huge deal, but stack a small handful of these throughout a day and the inefficiencies add up. 

Get a system together where you can write down these things as they come up, jot down a few notes to remind yourself, and then keep focus on the work item you are currently on. 

I like to use Evernote for its scratch pad feature, note tags, notebooks, and use across multiple devices. Keeping my notes somewhat organized on the go kept them at hand and easy to find once I developed my system. 

The most important thing to mention here is to plan time into your day to review the notes you took. The notes are great, but if you aren’t reviewing them regularly to remind yourself of the thoughts you wrote down, you may as well have not written them down at all. If you have too many scribbled notes to yourself, they quickly become disorganized and the thoughts are lost, anyway. 

Meal Prep

Meals are another potential time killer and decision point that can be optimized. You can either prepare a bunch of meals at once so all you have to do is heat them up and eat when it’s time, or, if you prefer and have the ability to make fresh food, have one or two staple meals that you can make quickly and that have easy ingredients. The idea here is that when it’s lunchtime, you go and eat lunch. You are not spending time deciding on what you want, where you’re going, do you even have those ingredients – none of that. When it’s lunch time you eat lunch.

Planning

Setting time to plan all of this out is the mission-critical step. Talking about using a calendar to plan out work is great just like having all of those one-off thoughts written down is going to help you remember them. Attempting to do any of this without leaving yourself the time to create your plans and review your notes is fruitless. 

You need to set aside time daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly to look at the different levels of your systems and your larger plans for where you want to go. 

The common trap is that people don’t see this as a productive use of time and forgo it in favor of physical work. What people fail to realize is that the efficiencies gained by setting aside this planning time gives them returns exceeding the time they spent putting the plan together. 

Wrap Up

If I haven’t made it clear how powerful automation is – it’s really powerful. By enacting the ideas presented here, you are removing the potential to make unproductive decisions and you are setting yourself up for the best chance at consistent successes. All you have to do is show up to each of your “appointments” that you create for yourself, and you win. To decide to deviate from your plan is deciding to fail. 

If you start to think about things from this perspective, winning is easy. When winning is the expectation, it is difficult to lose. 

Nothing above happens overnight – it is important to understand that it will be frustrating at the beginning. Going from an unstructured day to having something with this level of structure is not going to be smooth until you learn how long to assign different things and which order you work in best. This is fine. Just like I mentioned in the planning section that the time spent creating the plan returns larger dividends, the same goes for these systems we are discussing here. 

If you stick with it and strengthen your systems, you will automate success. The more time you automate, the less time you have to make unproductive decisions.

If this all sounds mechanical or robotic, well, it is. There is a reason factories moved to robots rather than having people work the machines. Robots are efficient at doing the same things repeatedly. They do it with high precision and consistent results. Why not use those same principles when we talk about our successes? Build mechanical and robotic systems for doing those things that need to be done repeatedly to get us to our goals. 

Save the spontaneity for your fun times. When it’s time to work, get to work.

Yours in strength,

-Chris

There is a lot going on at thebeardreport. these days.

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Between What Should Be and What Is

What are you doing to close the gap?

The word “should” can be powerful. It can be a tool to help solve problems, it can identify a hurdle that you have to overcome, or it can be a point of stagnation – it comes down to actions surrounding the word.

Should expresses an expectation. In some ways it is used as a hypothesis as in:

“If I do this then that should happen”.

In other ways it is used to express an opinion or a projection of what is “right”:

“This should be the way the world works”.

When a specific set of actions is laid out ahead of “should”, as is the case in the first example, you can call that a proactive approach to expectations. It communicates an expected outcome based on the steps leading up to the result. This is the idea behind the scientific method and it lends itself to learning and growing. It is part of an analytical process and provides feedback on how well you understand a specific scenario. It is also iterative in that it gives you information to use the next time you are faced with a similar situation.

When should is a reaction, as is the case in the second example, this is projecting an idea onto something else. It can be thought of as virtue signalling, in a way, in that it is an expression of an opinion. Depending upon the actions taken following such statements, this can either be the starting point of motion or a place of stagnation – we will look at this more below.

The Proactive Approach

The proactive side of the argument – where “should” is used to express a hypothesis – holds a lot of benefit to an individual. Like was mentioned before, this method of guessing the result based on actions taken is a great way to learn, iterate, and improve.

Using this method to solve any problem helps to take the subjective influence out of learning and helps us to stay objective when analyzing a situation. This is helpful when dealing with humans, as we are emotional creatures by nature. 

By thinking through and predicting how a course of action will end up, you will give yourself a data point to check in with – you will have context for how a situation unfolds. After the dust settles, you will be able to analyze the situation and find things that didn’t go as planned or that you can do better. You will also identify those things that you did well and keep those for next time. 

When things go totally sideways and the train jumps the track, you can then go back to the drawing board and think up a new solution and try the whole deal over again. Thinking in this more objective manner helps to keep you out of the subjective headspace where feelings and emotions cloud judgement.

The Reactive Approach

The more interesting side of “should” is the reactive side. This side of the discussion forks one of two ways – one initiates action to take place, the other is stagnation; again, it depends on what else happens around “should”. 

The reactive side of “should” sounds like the following:

“It shouldn’t be this hard” 

“This should just take care of itself”

Well, reality is that the situation is exactly that hard and that thing is likely not going to just take care of itself. The question that needs answered here is, what are you going to do to overcome these challenges?

There are two ways to go from here – the Initiated way and the weak way.

The Weak Way

I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this section, but it is important to discuss. The weak path is chosen by those who want to continue to stay in this world of “should”. They don’t want to change their routines, they don’t want to step up and take action, they want to continue to stay stagnant and find comfort in their great ideas of what “should be”. 

These people may seek validation from others for their great and groundbreaking ideas of what should be and they will be proud of themselves for having standards higher than the situation they find themselves in.

These people are draining to be around. Nothing is ever good enough for them.

The Initiated Way

The stronger path, the Initiated path, is to pick up the ball and run with it. When you begin to feel that something is not right or doesn’t align with your expectations, you seek to change. 

In this case, “should” is the starting point for action. It sets off a lightbulb that tells you you may need to hit the drawing boards to figure out a solution. This is the path chosen by people that accept the challenge and decide to do something differently.

There are two variables that need to be considered in these situations by an individual who is deciding they will not be bested and that they will come out on top.

  1. What actions are you willing to do?
  2. What are the limitations of the situation you are in?

The first point is important to break down a bit further. It refers to what actions you are willing to do, not what you’re able to do. This is an important distinction.

Part of self-reliance is having the awareness and discipline to set boundaries. Not every situation that you come across will be worth dying on the hill for – some things are just not that critical; and these things should be recognized early so that you can approach them accordingly. 

Once you understand what you are willing to do, then you can start to put a plan together for what you will do – what actions are you going to take to overcome this situation and close the gap between what “should be” and what “is”. 

The second point is to understand the limitations of the situation you are in. Again, this is tied to awareness, but there will be some situations where there are limitations in what you are able to accomplish. You are not going to overhaul an organization’s operations, for example, so if what “should be” cannot exist within the rules of an organization, you’re limited in what you will be able to do to close the gap while remaining in that arena.

There is no value in being the martyr for causes that are not that important. There is greater value in taking action to find a way out of your problem that works for you.

After mulling over these two considerations, you will be able to decide on a path forward but it will result in either:

  1. Closing the gap between what is and what should be – making changes to positively impact the situation you find yourself in.
  2. Cutting ties with whatever the situation is and moving on – by first deciding whether you achieve your goals with the limitations at hand, you can then decide whether cutting ties with the situation and moving on is the better choice. No reason to stick around if you cannot succeed in what you want to do where you are at.

Again, I must reiterate, self-reliance is about having the awareness to be able to take a step back and see what the situation is to decide to act accordingly. 

Further, remember that this is all driven toward taking action in some way. The point is that “should” doesn’t accomplish anything on its own. Closing the gap requires you to take decisive action. Either stay and make changes or leave and solve your problems another way; whichever path gives you the best chance of success.

Finally, allow me to clarify that there is a difference between cutting ties with a situation and running away from problems. I am not suggesting that you run away from anything; I am saying something different. I am saying that if, when you take a look at the situation and challenges you are up against, you see that the limitations are too great, you have a choice to make.

  1. Either the problem is not that important and therefore does not need to be pursued further in which case I am suggesting you put your efforts toward more pressing matters.
  2. Or, if the limitations are too great to overcome how you initially planned, it is on you to find another route to get where you want to go. This may involve cutting ties with your immediate situation and coming at the problem from another angle.

Wrap Up

Whenever you hear the word “should” your ears should perk up. Look at how it’s being used, who is using it, and what they are talking about. 

It should be an indication that there is action to be taken. It shouldn’t be an excuse to complain about a situation taking place and it shouldn’t be used to seek validation for an idea.

Instead of using “should”, use more concrete language. Form an opinion, state that opinion confidently, and take action. Passing off great ideas of what “should be” are worth little unless you’re going to follow that up with actions to close the gap.

Yours in strength,

-Chris

There is a lot going on at thebeardreport. these days.

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Strategies For Setting Better Goals

Understand these ideas if you want to set better goals and increase your win-rate.

Setting goals is one of those things that is often talked about but rarely executed well. We are told to set goals at work, in our personal lives, and for anything that we want to achieve. Some people dislike setting goals or have difficulty doing so. Some just don’t see the value in the exercise.

I am a fan of setting goals, and you should be, too. It is one of the few pieces of commonly shared advice that I agree with. There are some models for setting successful goals out there and they cover some of the big improvements that can be made when setting goals. One such model for goal setting is setting SMART goals. 

SMART is an acronym for:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Relevant

T – Time-bound

The SMART model is a great model for the mechanics of setting goals; however, it falls short in application because it doesn’t cover some of the more fundamentals needed to make the best and most successful goals you can make.

A lot of what was discussed in the last few blog posts apply here in terms of having your goals be a part of your Values and Philosophy if you really want to achieve them. Your goals must align with your Philosophy and your vision for yourself; else, pursuing those goals is going to pull you off course.

Beyond that, there are some other core ideas that will benefit you as you set out to make goals for yourself. These are a few steps deeper than the common pieces of advice thrown around. 

Additive and Iterative Goals

We should first consider the types of goals that we create as they come in two flavors – additive and iterative.

When you start a new pursuit or want to change directions in life, you are going to create additive goals. These are goals that require you to develop new behaviors and to carve time out of your schedule to work on them. These are goals built around those activities that you are not currently doing and need to have their place in your Strategy.

Your iterative goals are those goals created to continue to lead you along your current path. When you have your Philosophy and Strategies working to achieve goals, you have a direction to move in. Your iterative goals are your smaller goals that you will set for yourself to create milestones along the way. Iterative goals continue to grow as you grow so that once you achieve one, you modify it; growing to the next step along your path.

It is important to understand the types of goals you are setting because you have a limited number of resources at your disposal – there is a finite amount of time and energy you have in a day to accomplish different things. If you have too many goals and exceed what you are able to put out, you are setting yourself up for failure. This becomes a problem more so with additive goals rather than iterative goals. The important take-away here is that you need to have a plan for accomplishing your goal before you set it. If you cannot determine where you are going to spend time pursuing an additive goal, you don’t get to set it as a goal. This is how you maintain consistent action without feeling overwhelmed.

Iterative goals are less of a concern in this way because, as defined, they grow with you. As you achieve one, it changes to something bigger. The number of iterative goals you have will remain close to the same number, they just change periodically.

A quick aside – what happens when you have a goal to stop doing something – a subtractive goal? These types of goals need to be framed as an additive goal to maximize their success. If you only focus on stopping something, this is called avoidance, and is only a short term solution to the problem. Avoidance of a problem is prone to failure because you are having to actively keep yourself from doing something – you need to spend time thinking about that thing you want to stop. It takes willpower to prevent yourself from falling into old habits and is not sustainable. 

Instead, you should create additive goals in these instances to replace your old habit with a new one. So, instead of your goal being to stop drinking soda, for example, you would set a goal to drink more water. You are taking something subtractive (stop drinking soda) and creating an additive goal (drink more water). This will help you to be more successful because you are focusing on accomplishing something rather than refraining from something.

Timing and Understanding

Many goals that are not accomplished are doomed from the get-go. When you have a poor understanding of what accomplishing a goal actually requires, you enter into setting and pursuing goals with unrealistic expectations. Not meeting these expectations leads to frustration and disappointment and will ultimately result in you walking away from that goal.

To prevent this from happening to you, don’t set goals too early. Anything worth doing is worth doing right and is likely to take some time and effort to do. Spending some time up front to learn about what you are going after is time well spent.

At the beginning, just learn. Watch videos, read articles, play in sandbox a little bit. Figure out how this new activity feels, figure out how and where you are going to fit it into your life. Get a feel for how long it will take and what type of costs are involved. These are all things best learned by getting involved; immersing yourself in the arena and just feeling it out.

Once you have at least a basic understanding of what you’re looking to do, then start to define your goal and some iterative goals to go along with it, as required. 

You don’t want only one goal that is going to take years to accomplish because it makes it difficult to track. You need intermediate, iterative goals along the way to give you an idea of how you’re tracking.

Understand Your Direct Impact

Another important concept to make sure you consider is that you must understand how and to what level you are able to directly impact your way toward a successful end. Too often, especially in the corporate world, people make goals that are largely out of their hands. For example, a goal of “I want to be promoted by next year” is not a good goal to set for a few reasons:

  1. There are a lot of factors outside of your control that will determine whether you get that promotion.
    1. Is there a job opening?
    2. Who else are you competing against?
    3. What are the criteria to be considered for a promotion?
    4. Who is going to take your position if you get the job?
  2. You will be relying on someone else to create that opportunity for you.
  3. Whether you get promoted is not your decision.

Now, since you are Initiated, you are already thinking of ways you are going to get that promotion – you’ll work harder, take on more responsibility, etc. You are going to show everyone why you deserve that promotion – and that is exactly what you should do. However, in the context of setting goals, “I want to be promoted” is not the goal you should set.

Instead, you should set goals that you have more control over. Construct goals around what responsibilities you are going to take over and which tasks you are going to seize ownership of. Determine what training you are going to complete to make yourself more qualified. These are all better goals than a promotion because you have far more impact over your achievement of these things. Ultimately, your goal is to prove you deserve a promotion, but these other goals are better in terms of ensuring achievement and will also give you the best chances of achieving what you really want.

Also important to consider is that this alternate approach is providing you a contingency plan. Never leave yourself in a position where you are relying on others for your ultimate success. 

Here’s what I mean:

Staying with this example of a job promotion – if you have gone forward and done everything you could do to prove you are the man (or woman) for the job and you still get passed over for the promotion – you always have the option to leave. Should it come down to that, you have all of these qualifications to put on your resume to show the next employer why you deserve the job that you want rather than the job you already have. This is the Initiated way to handle a situation. This is self-reliance. Elevate yourself to be able to play at the next level and then go find the opportunity you need to get there. Rinse and repeat until you get to where you want to be.

On Achievement

It was touched on before but each of your additive goals should turn into iterative goals down the road. If you create goals that align with your Philosophy and your Values, you should always have another iterative goal to go after. 

Even if you have a lofty goal that is going to take you years to achieve, that’s great. As you start to close in on that big goal you should start looking for how you are going to roll that achievement into the next large goal – iterating your achievements and carrying that momentum into the next pursuit. 

Said differently, if you are setting good goals in alignment with your Philosophy and where you ultimately want to go, it will be easy to carry that momentum from one goal into another because it is all connected – your Integrity is strong. There should be an obvious next step for you so that you continue down the path you have laid out for yourself.

Perhaps one of the worst things a person can do is set a dead ended goal – a goal that once achieved, doesn’t leave them anywhere else to go. Upon achievement of these goals, they hit a wall and all of that momentum is lost. The achievement of a goal should be short lived and followed quickly with the next action. 

In these instances it is worth considering what the real value of achieving that goal was. Was it integrated into a person’s path? Was that pursuit strengthening their Integrity? In the case of hitting a dead end with nowhere to go next, it may be the case that this was an offshoot of their path and now that they have reached the end they need to bushwack their way back. The efforts to achieve that goal may not have been as fruitful as it could have been.

Wrap Up

These tactics for setting goals will ensure that you are setting the right goals for the right reasons. Considering these criteria when setting goals will leave you with the best chances of achieving your goals because they will be created in alignment with your Values and your Philosophy rather than being disconnected from them. 

Create strong goals for yourself that have a high probability of success and go work your ass off until you make them happen.

Yours in strength,

-Chris

There is a lot going on at thebeardreport. these days.

Check out the Newsletter or The Initiated Lifestyle Podcast for more of this content.

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Relying on Accountability to Drive Change – A Weak Approach

Accountability is not designed to drive change.

It seems we hear “accountability” everywhere these days. Whether people are saying that they need to be held accountable, they are going to hold you accountable, or whether they will hold themselves accountable, it is a common idea in the self-development space when people want to make changes in their life. 

Also see:

“I want to do that, I just struggle to hold myself accountable.”

And

“I would do better if someone held me accountable.”

Here’s the truth – these two sentences don’t mean what they appear to mean. Both of these sentences communicate:

“I don’t really want to do that but I think that I should. I think that it would benefit me, but if it were up to me, I wouldn’t change a thing”

This is because accountability is addressing the surface level of why people don’t make changes and they don’t have something deeper driving them to change. The better question to investigate, though, is why don’t people have the drive to do things they say they want to do? Why do most new-year’s resolutions fail before April? Why is accountability such a popular idea with it being fragile as it is?

Outliers

We first need to cover what types of activities accountability aims to achieve, which is the outliers. The outliers are those activities that lay outside of one’s Philosophy. They are the changes that people say they want to make but are not a Value that they hold; instead, they are held as a “want” or a “nice to have”. These are the things that people like to talk about but don’t like to take action on. It takes time and work to accomplish meaningful things in meaningful ways. It takes commitment. 

These outliers, though, sit just outside of a person’s Values. They are not tied to their Philosophy, there isn’t a strategy associated with them, they don’t have their place in a person’s life. They are the out-of-town relatives that you see during the holidays rather than the family that lives in your house. You visit these outliers when it’s convenient, but they will be lower priorities to you than those things that are part of your Philosophy. 

Think about this for a second – do you need to think twice about doing those things that are part of your identity or do they just happen naturally? 

Does a smoker need to be reminded to smoke?

Does the Netflix binger need to be reminded to watch TV?

These things are not outliers to these people – they are a part of their identity, their Philosophy, and they do these things automatically. 

Until you move things from being outliers to coming into your life as a Value, you will continue to rely on these “feel-good” ideas of accountability and motivation to drive change. The changes you are trying to make are not a part of your identity yet, so you need to be pushed to do them by something external to you. As they are not a Value to you, they remain a “want” rather than a “need”. 

When the going gets tough, or when you start to hit challenges along the road, that idealization of that “want” fades. As you learn about what it really takes to get to the level of achievement you want, you start to think that maybe you don’t want it that bad or that maybe it isn’t really important to you, and you begin to regress back to your old habits and abandon that pursuit.

Accountability Is A Few Levels Too High

I said earlier that accountability addresses the surface level issues that prevent people from making change. It is a surface level solution, too, meaning that staying up at the level that accountability operates at will prevent you from diving deeper. 

The deeper dive is where you find Values, Philosophy, and Identity – the real drivers of habits. You need to get down to these levels if you want to make real and lasting changes in your life. 

Accountability will always rely on someone or something holding you accountable – even if you are a believer in holding yourself accountable. Accountability will always be a two party system; it is fundamental to how the idea works. 

Further, accountability is built upon a system of avoiding punishment for failing rather than realizing fulfillment as when you hold Values and work to live in alignment with them.

Unpacking that statement further, accountability relies on the truth that there must be some consequence for not performing. Some of accountabilities methods for doing this are:

  1. Pride – if you don’t do what you are supposed to do, you need to admit to someone that you failed to meet expectations and it is a hit to your pride. 
  2. Monetary – if you are paying for a service and not using it, you are punished by having to pay the fees you agreed to pay without getting the value that you intended to get. 

Lacking Integrity

A result of relying on accountability to drive changes in life is the lack of Integrity that comes along with it. 

Accountability drives action for discrete activities like going to the gym. When an aspiring gym-goer hires a coach, accountability to actually go to the gym is often one of the services they are paying for.

There are a few issues with this.

  1. A fitness coach can only hold someone accountable for a limited number of things.
  2. Hiring a coach to help you in the gym is a discrete activity that is often an outlier to people that feel they want to get in shape – they cannot help integrate this within the larger picture of your Philosophy.

Both of these issues point to lacking Integrity in the larger plan of one’s life. The power of living with strong Integrity is that everything you do is tied to everything else, but most importantly it is tied to your core beliefs. 

Seeking accountability to drive action often leaves you with a fragmented set of priorities and you have different people holding you accountable to each of them.

If you were to take a step back and build a cohesive set of Values that included everything that you wanted to accomplish, you wouldn’t need to be held accountable as you would begin doing these things out of necessity. They would be a part of your identity and your purpose. To not do these things would be a betrayal to yourself. 

Make the changes you want to make Values. Go deeper than accountability and motivation. Drive action for yourself because you need to be doing the different things you are doing, not because you think you want them.

Yours in strength

-Chris

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When You Stand on Crumbling Ground

Weak foundations fail when they are put to the test.

Last week covered the grounding effect of a strong Philosophy and how you are able to ground yourself to something, have context to understand new ideas, and how all of that allows you to best use the strengths that you have. By standing on a strong foundation, you are able to stay your course and without something coming along and knocking you off your path.

This is not reality for some, though. Some do not know what a strong Philosophy is nor do they realize their foundation is weak. As humans trend more toward finding comforts and outwardly blaming others for their shortcomings, they are not reflecting on themselves and their own Philosophies.

Any foundation, even the weakest ones, only fail when they are stressed. That is to say, even the weakest foundations will remain intact if they are not stressed to their failure point.

In calm times, weak foundations work just fine. They have supported the structure above up to this point and they have proven they are strong enough to do that; however, the storms are out there. Life is not stress-free. There are people with different ideas of what is “right”, there is disagreement, conflict; there are any number of things that can stress someone’s foundation. 

There are common characteristics of people with weak Philosophies and it is useful to be able to recognize these things to both better understand these people when you encounter them and to be able to identify weaknesses in your own Philosophies when you need to take a look at yourself.

The Feeling of Weakness

The feeling of a weak Philosophy or a weak foundation can be characterized from uneasiness to fear. You can imagine standing in place and feeling the ground below you beginning to give under the stress you are trying to handle. You are being loaded with the stresses of the world, but your foundation is giving way. It would almost be like standing in quicksand.

Or it can feel like you’re standing on the edge of a cliff. You have no ground behind you to be able to take a step back. As the problems of the world start to come at you, you have nothing to do but stand there and hope that you can take the blow. If you can’t, you’re going to get pushed off the edge of the cliff. Neither are comfortable feelings. 

A strong Philosophy will place you in an area with ample space around you to maneuver, absorb the blow if needed, or take a step back to buy some more time. A weak Philosophy does not give you many options. Each opposition feels like a high-stress situation and you feel trapped. You can’t see any path around the challenge because you are only able to worry about what this challenge is going to do to you and your fragile foundation. 

It is uncomfortable and scary.

Rather than take action, people in this position must resort to reactions as they do not have the luxury of time and space to create a better plan. Reactions are less likely to be the best course of action because they are decisions made under pressure. 

There are a few common reactions in these situations.

Arguing – going on the offensive to protect a weak Philosophy

When someone with weak Values and beliefs is confronted with opposing views, their reaction can surface in the form of an argument. When someone is perched on the edge of the cliff and they are confronted with opposing ideas, they cannot afford to take the blow or step back and take an objective look at things; else they risk losing whatever small bit of safe ground they had behind them. 

Their only option is to go on the offensive; to argue. They need to protect themselves by trying to gain more ground in the face of conflict. They need to find validation for their ideas so that they can remain where they are.

If people understood how weak their foundation was or how closely they were standing to the edge, they would want to put in the work to move off of the edge during the quiet times; however, like I said earlier, few can see how close they really are to the edge until they feel the pressure. So, when pressure comes, they must fight. They will argue until the problem goes away and they live to see another day. 

You would think this would be an eye-opener for these people; that after that brush with danger that they would see how close to the edge they really are standing. 

This isn’t the case.

More often than not these people see arguing as an effective method to manage this type of situation. Now that they already have that one success story, they gain confidence that they will be able to argue away all types of issues that crop up down the road. Because they are comfortable with where they are currently at and they feel they have a method to ensure their safety, they have little drive to put in the work to strengthen their Philosophy and take some steps away from the edge of the cliff.

These people will instead continue to argue more often. Because they are not strengthening their Philosophy, it continues to grow weaker. It takes less to make them feel the threat of losing their footing. They rely on the tactics they have developed. 

These people are often on the offensive and look at how they can blame others for their situation. They deflect issues, refuse ownership, and will remain in that same position dancing right on the edge of falling.

Sources – dismissing those thoughts that don’t come from “reputable” sources

There are another group of people, a subset of the argumentative people, that require sources for all of the information they hear. These people build their Philosophies and their foundation through compiling ideas from other people. Lacking their own critical thought, they listen to others that are believed to be authorities on any number of topics, and then cherry pick the excerpts that best support whatever their position may be.

Because this group of people don’t take the time to do much critical thinking themselves, they don’t see that others can, and do, come up with their own ideas. In disagreements, these people want sources because they want to attempt to understand who is really behind the arguments being presented because this is how they think.

This approach to a Philosophy is weak for a few reasons:

  1. By compiling the thoughts of others, these people will have gaps in their logic and Philosophy. Segmenting a Philosophy into excerpts of others makes it difficult to have strong Integrity as the pieces likely don’t link together in a meaningful way. These Philosophies end up being a compilation of facts without the logic ties that make them into one, cohesive system. 
  2. It lacks depth of understanding. When a person decides to adopt ideas from other sources, they often do not understand all of the underlying reasoning and support that went into the original statements, nor do they understand the depth of these ideas as they apply to themselves. Neither of these scenarios make for a strong, integrated set of ideas.
Influence – following a new set of ideas because they sound good

Lastly, a person with a weak or lacking Philosophy can be easier to influence than those with a strong Philosophy. As they are not tied down to a strong foundation, these people can float with the direction of the winds and follow whichever crowd they decide has the best answers. 

These are the people that have frequent revelations or have a new set of ideas and Values each time you see them. Without doing the homework to define a Philosophy for themselves, they often believe they have “found the answers” and adopt these new ideas.

This, too, leaves a person feeling uneasy; though, in a different way. When this person first finds a new set of beliefs, they are in the honeymoon phase of the relationship. Everything this new set of ideas and Values does is great and it has the answers that they have been looking for forever – they finally found it. 

Eventually, though, they may begin to feel that this set of Values isn’t checking all their boxes. They are not headed in the direction that they want to go and they begin to see these adopted Values aren’t going to take them there. 

The influenced feel trapped until they catch wind that another group has different ideas and they go along and follow that group for a while, and the cycle repeats itself.

Being easily influenced makes it difficult to lead oneself in a specific direction. When you get caught up in crosswinds, you can’t stay on the road – you are floating along at the mercy of the wind. 

These people will feel like they are staying in one spot because they keep getting put on these paths that don’t progress them forward, just sideways.

Reaching Out for Something

The common thread woven through each of these profiles is that they are all reaching for something. Whether they call it meaning, understanding, safety, optimization, whatever, they are reaching outward for ideas, logic, or Values that will tie them down to the ground and resolve whatever feelings of uneasiness they are experiencing.

The arguers reach out looking for logic that proves them right while deflecting the responsibility and ownership off of them and onto someone else – anything that keeps them safe from stepping backward off of the cliff.

Those looking for sources are reaching for validation of ideas. Rather than validate thoughts and ideas for themselves, they look to “authorities” for validation. These people, too, are trying to tie themselves down to a solid foundation in their own way.

Those easily influenced are reaching for found answers rather than creating their own answers. By flowing with the direction of the wind they find someone that is saying something attractive and hitch their wagons up to that horse thinking they finally found the answers.

None of these groups are doing the work for themselves or providing their own answers; instead, they are looking for someone else to provide answers to them. 

Their Philosophies would be stronger and more complete, with stronger Integrity, if they would put the work in themselves, but they either don’t want to face the questions required to do so or they cannot see that they have this kind of work to do – they lack the vision to look at themselves this way.

Rather than reaching outward, these groups of people would benefit more from looking within and challenging themselves to answer their own questions. They can get custom-tailored solutions rather than buying off the rack.

It is beneficial to you to understand what a weak Philosophy looks like so that you can use this understanding to strengthen yourself. It is also beneficial to be able to understand others that exhibit some of the common behaviors you see so that you can better contextualize people that you interact with in the world.

Understand that reading this and understanding these concepts puts you in a small group of individuals who are ready to take in this information. Because of this, you are going to encounter people from one of the other three groups above far more often than you will encounter those who think like you and me. It is important to understand the world around you so that you can find how you navigate through it. 

These people with weak Philosophies are not bad people, they are simply on their own journey and some will figure this out sooner or later and make the necessary changes. There are others that will be stuck in the same rut forever. It is our job to do our best and be an example for others.

Yours in strength,

-Chris

There is a lot going on at thebeardreport. these days.

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Your Philosophy is Your Ground

Be unshakeable; ready to weather any storm

The floor drops out from underneath you, your heart is up in your throat, and you’re grabbing onto anything that you can reach as you endure that feeling of freefall. It’s exciting on roller coasters; however, it is not what you want to feel as you’re living your day-to-day life.

That feeling of having little control and reaching for anything that won’t give way is a feeling that is familiar to those not grounded. Whether they are going through a tough time or are “trying to find themselves” these people are lost, freefalling, and trying to right their ship.

Conversely, think of an old tree. It’s been around for the last 100 years. In that time it has weathered many storms, rains, high winds, lightning, but it still stands. It’s roots are still holding strong to the ground beneath it. It’s grabbed a hold of the earth and is sturdy. This is what having a strong Philosophy provides for people; they feel like this tree – sturdy, immoveable, ready to weather any storms.

As the world continues on the noise increases. News outlets, social media, reality television – all competing for their piece of your attention. The rate at which new media is created increases by the day. Along with all that noise there are conflicting opinions, persuasion, and “recruiting”. It’s easy enough to get lost today and I expect it to get worse as time continues on.

It is important that each person equips themselves with their own Values and Philosophy so that they have the context and tools needed to navigate through all of the noise. 

A Strong Philosophy is a Strong Foundation

A strong system of Values and beliefs is your ground. They are things that you can grab onto as the windstorm picks up. When you are confronted with different opinions and information your Philosophy will provide the context needed to analyze and evaluate the information laid out in front of you.

A strong Philosophy is the foundation upon which one can build a life. The elevation to which one can build is limited by what their foundation can support. If you try to build too tall, too fast, before laying the proper foundation, there will eventually come a point where you will reach the capacity of the foundation below or you risk it, making the daily gamble that the wind does not blow hard enough to blow over what you have built. 

I’m sure you are able to think of stories of the person that had such promise but stalled or someone that continued beyond their limits too quickly and paid for it somewhere down the line. 

Your Philosophy Grounds You

People turn to any number of things to find stability. Some choose advice from friends, some choose the news, Facebook groups, religion – my point is that when people feel lost or that they don’t have answers to the questions they face, they begin to look for answers. Whether they are confused, scared, or they don’t know how to feel, people are on the lookout for answers to their problems. They are trying to resolve the instability of an unknown with the stability of an answer.

Friends, news, and/or religion, all provide these answers and stability in their own way. People will search until they find an answer that seems reasonable enough to answer their question and they are content. 

A strong Philosophy allows people to answer these questions for themselves. Philosophy itself is the stability that people are looking for. The answers found in one’s Philosophy are consistent with the makeup of the individual trying to resolve their questions.

Find Your Own Answers Before You Need Them

The idea behind the Initiated Philosophy is that each individual builds their Philosophy for themselves. It is a process of deep reflection, tough questions, and fearless discovery. Through this process you will define what is important to you and what is not. You will explore the dusty corners of yourself to find what things about your belief system are underdeveloped or inconsistent with your goals. From there, you will develop your guiding Principles. 

It is through that process that you will find the answers you need before you need them. Better yet, you will understand yourself better than you ever have before. 

  • What makes you tick?
  • What motivates you?
  • What makes you uneasy? 
  • Why?
  • What can you do to change it?
  • Where do you need to grow?
  • What are your strengths?
  • How can you best use those strengths?
  • How can you best use those strengths to support your weaknesses?

And so on.

You should begin to see now that in going this deep in self discovery you discover the voids in your existing ideas about who you are and what you’re about and begin a process of filling those gaps.

Context

Earlier I mentioned the idea of a Philosophy providing context and this is another cool thing about developing a strong Philosophy for yourself rather than adopting ideas from other sources. 

We just discussed the depth at which you need to go to effectively discover all of the voids in your belief system and how from there you can begin to close those gaps and strengthen the Integrity of your Philosophy by ditching what isn’t serving you and keeping what is.

This is the best way to develop an intimate relationship with your thoughts and beliefs. Like a motorcycle that you have built from the ground up – you know its quirks, its weak points, and you’re the only person that knows your specific bike inside and out. Your Philosophy is similar – you’re the person with the most familiarity of the inner workings of it, you will know why each Value is there and how they all interact with each other.

As much as I talk about your Philosophy being strong and strengthening Integrity and finding the answers before you need them, understand that this is not to say that you are going to have EVERYTHING sorted out at the onset of this new life you’re about to lead.

The world around you will change, you will hit unexpected bumps in the road, you are going to grow and your priorities and Values will shift – this is all part of the journey.

The power of the context you gain is in how your Philosophy helps you handle these challenges. By doing this deep dive and understanding how you operate, you have a baseline to start from. When you encounter something that conflicts with your beliefs you are not rocked off of your foundation because your foundation is the strongest you could have made it to that point. You have a strong footing to be able to absorb the initial blow, take a look at it from all sides, and have the strength to move forward how you best see fit. 

Rather than that feeling of freefall where you’re grabbing for anything that you can reach, you are grounded to your Philosophy and a strong set of Values that you can use to navigate through situations. You don’t need to stress your grip strength because you are not reaching for anything to begin with – you’re already planted atop an immovable ground.

Think of context like this – say you learned Spanish in Spain and took a vacation to Mexico. You will be able to communicate well enough but there will be local differences in the Mexican language that you will need to work around. You will adopt useful words and phrases in Mexico that will allow you to navigate better; you will have modified your understanding of the language a little bit, but it is because you were fluent in Spanish to begin with that you are able to make these changes to your understanding of the language. 

Hopefully you draw the parallel between Philosophical context and the linguistic context allowing the incorporation of useful phrases into the original understanding of Spanish. It is because of the understanding of the Spanish language that you are able to understand the new dialect and adapt; whereas if you did not understand Spanish at all, you would be lost.

Your Philosophy is what you know and will provide context as you encounter different opinions. Because you have that understanding of your Philosophy, you are able to adapt as YOU see fit. You also have a strong foundation to stand upon if you decide you want to push back against different beliefs. 

This is the context that a strong Philosophy provides. It informs your gut-check decisions and helps you to conceptualize “good” and “bad” relative to yourself. Then it is there to provide the same reference point if you decide that what you’re looking at is worthy of further investigation.

Built Not Bought

I want to drive home the importance and advantage of building a Philosophy rather than adopting one. 

First, there is rarely a scenario where someone else’s Philosophy will check all of your boxes. You may agree with most of what another person believes but there is rarely a scenario where everything that another person says entirely resonates with you. There will be gaps in that Philosophy that you must fill. 

Second, you will not have the same level of understanding when adopting another belief system than if you develop your own. You can study another ideology for a long time before you gain the confidence to say that you understand enough. Until that time, you will not be on firm, solid ground – your foundation will be soft and able to give as you cannot firmly plant your feet on all of the ideas within this belief system you have adopted – this is the topic of next week’s Transmission, by the way. Make sure to check that out. 

Further to this point – all that time you spent trying to understand someone else’s Philosophy could have been spent refining and applying your own. You could have already started your journey but instead decided that there was something more to learn by studying someone else’s system.

So – I have presented two things. The first says that, even if you were to adopt the ideas of another person or group, you will need to do some level of self-reflection to fill in the gaps when you encounter those parts that don’t resonate with you. The second point is that you will need to put in the time to study the ideas of this ideology to make sure you understand all of the links and application of the ideas you hold, leaving you on a soft foundation in the mean-time.

So, now I ask this – what are you really gaining by adopting a belief system rather than developing your own? 

From where I’m sitting, not much. 

You will develop a Philosophy quicker than you will learn one and you will be more grounded to the Philosophy that you build for yourself than the one that you adopt. 

Rely on yourself, build it yourself, and get exactly what you want.

Yours in strength,

-Chris

There is a lot going on at thebeardreport. these days.

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